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Due to the Federal Government shutdown, the National Archives ( is closed.  We are unable to post or participate in any of our social media channels during this closure. All National Archives facilities are closed, with the exception of the Federal Records Centers and the Federal Register until the Federal government reopens.

This post comes from James Rush, the Administrative Staff Director for Archival Operations in Washington, DC.

Staff at the National Archives at College Park are moving approximately 398 cubic feet of personnel related records to the National Archives at St. Louis.  The series being transferred complement the mission, function, and holdings of the National Archives at St. Louis.  It documents personal data and pertains to individuals, rather than organizations; and, logically belongs with the records that constitute the core holdings of the National Archives at St. Louis.  This relocation to St. Louis will facilitate more efficient archival research and public access to these records.

The records transferred to St. Louis are:

Series Title: Service Records of Shipping Personnel RG 178, NC-5 118 (NARA ID 7368316)

Closure Date at the National Archives at College Park:  September 24, 2013

Estimated Date Available for Researchers at St. Louis: October 7, 2013

Please keep in mind that the date listed above for opening the materials is an estimate.  If there is a significant change to this schedule we will post it in the consultation areas at the National Archives at College Park. You can also check the status of the records at St. Louis at the following website:

To request records at the National Archives at St. Louis, please contact that office in one of the following ways:

email: or send a letter to:

National Archives at St. Louis
Attention: RL-SL
P.O. Box 38757
St. Louis, MO 63138-1002

The following post come from Bill Mayer, the Executive for Research Services at the National Archives.

Attention All Researchers:

The 3:30 pull for today has been cancelled.  An issue relating to federal payroll activities at 22 federal agencies nationwide has causes significant staffing issues.  In order to address these issues, we have had to take this step so other areas of public service are not affected adversely.

While we are making every effort to contain these problems, there is some possibility the afternoon pull scheduled for Monday, September 16, 2013 may be affected.  We will advise you of the situation as we receive information.

On behalf of all Research Services staff, I wanted to thank you for your continued patience.  Please feel free to contact me directly at


Today’s post comes from Alyssa Young and Yvonne Ruiz, student interns at the National Archives at Fort Worth, who came across an unexpected and eye-opening find amid the Galveston District U.S. Commissioner’s case files.

While perusing digitized records, Fort Worth Archives Director Meg Hacker found an interesting document in the midst of a seemingly unrelated collection.  Two graduate students, Alyssa Young and Yvonne Ruiz, were thus tasked with making sense of the series.  Masqueraded behind an apparently benign task was a fascinating journey through life in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries; sorting through the Galveston District U.S. Commissioner’s case files proved an intoxicating venture.

The actual content of the series differs greatly from its description, which defined the series as documents about foreign deserters in Galveston port.  Instead, the series comprises a wide array of issues from the Commissioner’s office, including indecent letters, production of counterfeit currency, and possession of government property.

The initial take-away seemed clear enough—accurately describing documents is crucial, and we would correct any mistakes.  But we also grew in our appreciation for the archival of human history, even seemingly unimportant documents.

Within minutes of opening the first box we were introduced to the series of emotions that would carry us through the project—intrigue, delight, shock and, occasionally, horror.  The unassuming boxes contained a treasure trove of court cases reaching the basics of our shared humanity.

Of most interest to us were the items not as important to court records.  Physical lewd and indecent letters (envelope and all) held our attention for much longer than their court case filings.  Although the latter maintains legal relevancy, accompanying artifacts uniquely reveal human behavior.


RG 21, U.S. Commissioners Case Files, Southern District, Galveston, 1887-1925



One favorite is the 1894 letter of a Sam McGee, a declaration of love to his “Lillie Dear.”  He confesses, “I want to be your paramour, and I want to take you to the opera some night when you feel like going.”

Letter 1

 RG 21, U.S. Commissioners Case Files, Southern District, Galveston, 1887-1925

Within the file is a second letter written to Lillie’s mother after she files charges against him.  Notice the handwriting difference.  The obvious care he took when writing to Lillie makes him all the more endearing.

Letter 2

RG 21, U.S. Commissioners Case Files, Southern District, Galveston, 1887-1925


What happened to our star-crossed lovers?  A mother’s disapproval didn’t stop Sam and Lillie, who were 19 and 16 years old, respectively, at the time the letter was written.  Census records reveal they were married a few years later!

Sam McGee’s sweet letter might lead to scoffs at the 19th Century definition of “lewd and indecent.”  Trust us—letter-writers of the time were as indecent as email-writers of today (and in the very same way).

Interacting with artifacts of a time past strengthens a primal connection between two worlds, regardless of the historical significance they’re assigned.  Though separated by the most impossible forces—geography, creed, and even time—human existence is ever-connected.  Our history teachers really were onto something.

This year the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will host a Virtual Genealogy Fair on September 3–4, 2013. As part of the planned programming, the Virtual Fair will include introductory sessions on civilian and military records at NARA that are useful for genealogical research. Military service, of course, represents one of the major aspects of family history. From 1775 to the mid-20th century, the United States engaged in numerous military conflicts, both internally and against foreign foes. These wars were fought by the U.S. military establishment, including the Regular Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as by citizen volunteers in State and local militias called into Federal service. In the lecture “Introduction to Military Records at the National Archives,” Genealogy Specialist John Deeben will explain various records that document military service from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam.

Focusing primarily on research in the Washington, DC area, the “Introduction to Military Records” examines how NARA’s military holdings are divided into two main periods: “Old” Military (1775–1912) and “Modern” Military (World War I and later). The “Old Military” records cover Volunteer and Regular Army service from the Revolutionary War (1775–83) to the Philippine Insurrection (1899–1902), including border disputes (The Patriot War) and the Old Indian Wars (1784–1858). During this period, Volunteer and Regular service were documented very differently. Beginning in the 1890s, the War Department gathered or transcribed information about state volunteers from various wars, using records created during those conflicts such as muster and payrolls, hospital registers, and prisoner of war rolls. The end result was a “compiled” service file for each veteran that also contained other personal papers held by the War Department, including extra copies of enlistment and discharge papers, orders, subsistence accounts, and sometimes correspondence. For the Regular military (Army, Navy, and Marine Corps), however, the War Department maintained a variety of formal recruiting records, including the Army Register of Enlistments and Navy rendezvous reports. Regardless of the type of service (Regular or Volunteer), pension records from the Revolutionary War to the Philippine Insurrection provide additional information about the veterans’ service as well as his family.

“Modern” Military records generally cover service during the 20th century from World War I to the First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm) in 1991. The lecture explains the general availability of official military personnel folders at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis (the Virtual Fair will also include a more detailed lecture on the NPRC’s civilian and military holdings), but focuses specifically on the military unit and operational records for each 20th-century conflict that are available for research at College Park. If you know what regiment or division a relative served in during World War I or II, for example, you can learn about the activities those units engaged in during combat in such records as unit histories, war diaries, and operational and command reports. Unit histories from the Korean War and division and brigade records (but very few company-level records) for the Vietnam War are also available. As an added bonus, an overview of draft registration records from World War I to Vietnam is also included in the presentation. For a unique opportunity to learn how to research military service at the National Archives, tune in to “Introduction to Military Records” on day one of the fair, September 3!

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