Getting Started Overview

Here's how to start researching records at the National Archives:

Why aren't all NARA's Archived Records Online?

Laid end to end, the sheets of paper in our holdings would circle the Earth over 57 times!

In addition to all of this paper, we have:

  • over 93,000 motion picture films;

  • more than 5.5 million maps, charts, and architectural drawings;

  • more than 207,000 sound and video recordings;

  • more than 18 million aerial photographs;

  • nearly 35 million still pictures and posters;

  • and more than 3.5 billion electronic records.

The volume grows at about 1.4 billion pages per year. Creating copies for our web site, and preserving those copies, simply exceeds our resources at this time.

About the Records at the National Archives

Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept forever. Those valuable records are preserved in the National Archives and are available to you, whether you want to see if they contain clues about your family's history, need to prove a veteran's military service, or are researching an historical topic that interests you.

News and Notices

Federal holiday icon All National Archives research rooms will be closed on Monday, February 18, in observance of Washington's Birthday. Museums in Washington, DC, and at the Presidential Libraries will be open.
View all Federal Holidays.

1940 Census

When you arrive


What to expect when you research at the National Archives

  • This video addresses procedures and security measures at the National Archives in Washington, DC, as well as how to use the research room and records.

Research >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272