04 May 2011

Finding guides for select NARA collections on the Internet Archive

By Don Krieger (from DonsList)

An extensive microfilm collection from the US National Archive has been made freely available by the Allen County Library online at the Internet Archive. 

These records include:
·        the complete US decennial census for 1800-1930,
·        index cards which enable a name search for 1880, 1900, and most of 1910,
·        service and pension records from the American Revolution, War of 1812, and the Civil War, and
·        immigration manifests from New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Seattle, and St. Albans, VT.

These records have been held in the past by specialized libraries. Finding things was assisted by knowledgeable archivists or, in the case of the National Archives, the searches were done by archivists. 

There are 2 problems faced by someone who wants to find something in the collection (30,000+ microfilm reels constuting 50,000,000+ pages).
(1)   What is the organization of the 100's of reels in a particular series, e.g. 1907-1933 Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards?
(2)   What is the organization of the material on each reel?

For the example, everything is in alphabetical order by surname followed by given name. For the census index card series the Russell Soundex index system is used.  For the Civil War series, the order varies but in most cases, is systematic.  In any case, we do not have an archivist on whom to call when we need help.

The archivists at the Allen County Library have placed some indexing information on the web page for each reel. When this material is placed in sequence by reel number, for many of the series the organization of the information both from reel to reel and within-reel becomes obvious.

These lists have been created and placed online at http://guides.donslist.net/. They are written in plain vanilla html so that they can be easily hosted on anyone's website. The digitization of the 1910-1930 Soundex index cards is underway with completion expected this summer.

Thanks to the National Archives, to the Allen County Library and to the Internet Archive. These resources are extraordinary.

Important resources related to what’s discussed in this article:
·        Allen County Library:

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