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Tag: military records

Staff from St. Louis are “unofficial rock stars” at National Genealogical Society conference

This post comes to us from Communications intern Lia Collen.

Staff from the National Archives (NARA) at St. Louis participated in the annual National Genealogical Society’s (NGS) Family History Conference in St. Charles, MO, from May 13–16. More than 2,200 professional genealogists attended the conference.

Archivists Daria Labinsky, Ashley Mattingly, and Theresa Fitzgerald at the National Genealogical Society’s Family History Conference in May.

Archivists Daria Labinsky, Ashley Mattingly, and Theresa Fitzgerald at the National Genealogical Society’s Family History Conference in May.

Access Coordinator Bryan McGraw and archivists Theresa Fitzgerald, Daria Labinsky, and Ashley Mattingly gave presentations about the large collection of personal data series records available at NARA at St. Louis.

“While, individually, a particular record may not seem as critical as a landmark document or treaty, taken as a whole, these records are among the most powerful and essential to our existence,” McGraw said. “Furthermore, these records not only give insight into genealogy, but many of them are used decades and decades later for essential benefits, entitlements, and the like.”

In addition to their lectures, the St. Louis staff managed an information table to provide more detailed information on records. Staff used this as an opportunity to clear up misconceptions and provide a better understanding of the National Archives at St. Louis.

“It is important for NARA to take part in this conference as we hold a treasure trove of records that will assist any genealogist or researcher that wants to learn more about … [ Read all ]

Sara Dunlap Jackson: Archivist Extraordinaire

Today’s post comes from Jessie Kratz, Historian of the National Archives.

In honor of Women’s History Month, I want to celebrate one of our most cherished former employees—Sara Dunlap Jackson. After I was appointed Historian last year, numerous local historians approached me to say that I just had to research Sara Dunlap Jackson because she was so important to the history of the agency.

Sara Dunlap Jackson was born in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1919. After earning her B.A. in sociology, and a brief stint as a high school teacher, Jackson moved to Washington, DC. She began her 46-year-long career at the National Archives in 1944 as an archives assistant in the Military Archives Division. According to Jackson, the Archives offered her the job because she had been working in the War Department, and the Archives thought this meant she knew something about military history.

In reality, Jackson knew little about military history at that time, but by spending countless hours in the stacks and answering numerous reference requests she became the go-to person for anyone researching military records in the National Archives. Researchers reported how she went the “extra mile,” how her kindness and advice “mothered” many historians, and how she dedicated her entire career to helping others. To many, Jackson was the National Archives.

Retirees reception, June 30, 1972. Sara Jackson  is in the middle. (64-JR-2, Records of the National Archives)

Retirees reception, June 30, 1972. Sara Jackson  is in

[ Read all ]

Burnt in memory: Looking back at the 1973 St. Louis fire

This blog post is condensed from the article “Burnt in Memory,” by Marta G. O’Neill and William Seibert, from the Spring 2013 issue of Prologue.

By the time it was daylight on July 12, 1973, at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, one thing was painfully clear: the loss of records to fire and water was staggering.

The fire had swept through the top floor of the building just after midnight. At its peak, 42 fire districts were fighting it. The fire burned uncontrolled for more than 22 hours.


The Military Personnel Records Center after the July 1973 fire. Vast numbers of personnel records for veterans from 1912 to 1963 were destroyed or damaged by fire and water.

About 73 to 80 percent of the approximately 22 million individual Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) stored in the building were destroyed. The records lost were those of former members of the Army, the Army Air Force, and the Air Force who served between 1912 and 1963.

Up on the sixth floor, reinforced concrete columns had sheared off, causing the roof to collapse. Metal shelving and metal filing cabinets were bent and twisted by the fire’s heat. Bricks of ash remained where cubic foot boxes of records once sat. Aisles between shelving rows were filled with debris up to three feet deep, and several … [ Read all ]