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The Crossroads of the Genealogy World

(Courtesy of NARA Staff)

Pennsylvania Avenue is synonymous with iconic destinations and extraordinary events. From the White House to the United States Capitol, the notable institutions that line the street have hosted many of America’s most momentous occasions. Last month, the National Archives Building at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue continued this tradition by holding its Eighth Annual Genealogy Fair.

The fair, which was free to the public, took place April 18-19 on Pennsylvania Plaza in front of the Archives. Throughout the two-day event, the National Archives showcased Federal records that can be used as resources for family history research. In addition, staff members and exhibitors provided information for both experienced genealogists and novices.

This year’s fair featured the addition of three large classroom tents for informational lectures. These sessions included workshops on records relating to immigration, land, naturalization, military, online resources, and more.

When visitors were not viewing exhibits and attending sessions, they were primarily discussing the recent release of the 1940 census in digital form. Many visitors revealed that they are now using social media and web tools to locate their relatives.

If you are interested in helping to index the 1940 census, join the online indexing project and start creating a name index for the 1940 census today. To start, find census maps and descriptions to locate an enumeration district. Then browse census … [ Read all ]

A Capital Celebration: The National Archives Commemorates DC Emancipation

An Act of April 16, 1862 (For the Release of Certain Persons Held to Service or Labor in the District of Columbia), 04/16/1862 (ARC ID #299814)

While Union and Confederate forces clashed on southern battlefields in 1862, a historic piece of legislation ended “the national shame” of slavery in the nation’s capital. The District of Columbia Emancipation Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on April 16, 1862.

The legislation provided for immediate emancipation and monetary compensation to former slave owners. It also stipulated that owners claiming compensation file schedules listing and describing each slave. The Supplemental Act of July 12, 1862 expanded on the first act by permitting the submission of schedules by slaves whose owners did not reside in the District of Columbia.

As a result of the first act, the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves approved 930 petitions from former owners for the freedom of 2,989 former slaves. The supplemental act resulted in another 161 petitions from individuals, including many former slaves who were allowed to file because their owners had failed to comply with the first act’s deadline.

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the DC Emancipation Act, the National Archives has released this short documentary video. The four-minute video is part of the ongoing “Inside the Vaults” series on our YouTube channel.

For more … [ Read all ]

The Legacy of the 1970s Energy Crisis

"Signs of the Energy Crisis," May 1973, photographed by Frank Aleksandrowicz (ARC 550088)

If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic on the Beltway, you know Americans love their cars, trucks, and motorcycles. So when fuel shortages occur, like in the 1970s, energy policy becomes a hotly debated issue.

Federal energy policy first became a major political priority during the energy crisis of the 1970s. In response to gasoline shortages and a series of petroleum embargos, Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter each took steps to readdress America’s energy policy. Through legislative action and an array of executive orders, the Federal Government established the Energy Research and Development Administration, Federal Energy Administration, and Office of Energy Programs.

This rapid expansion of Federal energy functions eventually compelled Congress to pass the Department of Energy Organization Act. The act, which was signed into law by President Carter on August 4, 1977, consolidated the various Federal energy agencies into a singule cabinet-level department. The new Department of Energy’s primary tasks were to promote a safe and dependable energy system, manage the nation’s nuclear facilities, and facilitate scientific research.

Since the 1970s, the Energy Department has continued to address energy, environmental, and nuclear challenges through research, development, and demonstration. In 2001, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy was created to assist in the development of alternative energy sources, such as … [ Read all ]

Going Digital: The 1940 Census Hits the Web and YouTube

On April 2 at 9 a.m. (EDT), the National Archives will launch its first-ever online U.S. census release. By visiting 1940census.archives.gov, internet users can access a digitized version of the entire census, including more than 3.8 million images of schedules, maps, and enumeration district descriptions.

The first Federal Population Census was taken in 1790, and a census has been taken every ten years since then. While the original intent of the census was to determine how many representatives each state could send to Congress, today these records serve as vital research tools for sociologists, demographers, historians, political scientists and genealogists.

In celebration of this historic release, the National Archives has produced a series of short documentary videos on our YouTube channel. These must-watch videos provide unique insight into the areas of agriculture, housing, and population.

For a “behind-the-scenes” view of staff preparations and a tutorial on how to use the data that you will find once the 1940 Census is launched, check out this short documentary.

[ Read all ]

A Public Enemy’s Life in the Fast Lane

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Wanted Poster of John Dillinger, 06/25/1934 (ARC 306713)

The National Archives is known for maintaining and preserving documents like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. But among America’s historic documents, there are also records of bank robbers, bootleggers, and gangsters.

In this week’s “True Crime at the Archives” spotlight is America’s first public enemy—John Dillinger.

A cunning and sophisticated bank robber, Dillinger led a string of violent robberies during his short yet infamous criminal career.

So why did auto theft prove to be his most costly crime?

It all began in 1933, when Dillinger was paroled from the Indiana State Prison after serving eight and a half years for robbing a grocery store. Within months, Dillinger organized a group of his closest criminal associates and began a notorious crime spree.

From September 1933 until January 1934, Dillinger and his fellow outlaws managed to evade law enforcement. And while  Americans struggled during the height of the Great Depression, the gang stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from Midwestern banks.

After a robbery of the First National Bank of East Chicago turned violent, national publicity intensified. The gang then fled to Arizona, where they were caught by local police on January 23.

Dillinger was extradited to Indiana to await trial for the murder of a police officer. But while he was sequestered in … [ Read all ]