24 July 2013

Using FBI Files for Genealogy Research


A recent post on the GenealogyBlog, Genealogical Research Using FBI Files, reminded me that for a project several years ago, I filed many many FOIA requests to the FBI to collect information about some individuals who were of interest (all long-deceased) for activities in the early 1900s.  It provided a fascinating look into all kids of people at the time. Some files were never found and for others, massive amounts of paperwork were received. 

Do realize that there is NO online submission and everything must be in writing.  You will then receive any communication from the FBI in writing through the mail.  I mention this so that you remember to be patient.  Learn more at What Happens After Making a Request.

When considering making such a request, do make sure that you have done your homework.  The FBI was created in 1908; before that the Department of Justice often used “Secret Service Operatives” to conduct investigations. 

So, if you are seeking earlier records, you might need to contact the United States Secret Service.

There is also online FBI Records: The Vault a “new electronic reading room, containing 6,700 documents and other media that have been scanned from paper...”

And, Fold3 has a collection of FBI Case Files which “cover[s] important investigations by an agency of the US government later known as the FBI, called the Bureau of Investigation. They include tales of espionage during World War I, case files for German aliens who were politically suspect, records pertaining to Mexican neutrality, and reports dealing with alleged violations of Federal laws.” The files cover the time period 1908-1921.

Have you ever used an FOIA to get records about your ancestors from the FBI or the Secret Service?  If so, please tell us how the process worked for you and whether any genealogical gems were found!

Do you know of other “online” collections of FBI or Secret Service files?




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