The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is shutting down its 10-year-old Archival Research Catalog (ARC) on Aug. 15. ARC catalogs the archives’ holdings, with links to holdings that are digitized online.
It’s being replaced by NARA’s Online Public Access (OPA) search, which combines several searches from the website: You can use OPA to identify holdings that relate to your genealogical search and access digitized records. OPA also provides access to nearly a million electronic records in the Electronic Records Archives, with more to be added. And it searches the websites of the National Archives and the presidential libraries for web pages with terms related to your search.
Your OPA search results are grouped into categories based on the type of result:
- Online Holdings: Search results including digital copies of records.
- Description Only: Descriptions of records NARA holds that are related to your search terms. To see the actual record, you would need to request copies from NARA, go there yourself, or hire a local researcher to search for the record you need.
- Archives.gov: Web pages on Archives.gov with matches to your search terms.
- Presidential Libraries: Web pages on presidential library websites with matches to your search terms.
- Authority Records: NARA’s website describes these as “Organization and Person authority records from the Organization Authority File and Person Authority File in ARC. These contain organizational histories and personal biographies.” From what I gather, authority sources are sources (such as The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names) that were used to index descriptions in ARC. The “organizational histories and personal biographies” are in the sources themselves, not part of OPA.
OPA search tips are here. NARA also plans to provide tips for searching OPA on its NARAtions blog. Here’s what the Basic OPA search form looks like.
You could search for a name, a research topic such as Civilian Conservation Corps (maybe if your grandfather was a CCC worker) or a record type you want to find out more about, such as War of 1812 Pensions.
I ran a search on a surname I’m searching, Seeger. My results included nine Online Holdings. One is a recent photo including a person named Seeger, and two are digitized 1918 Alien Application Permits for men named Seeger. Not my relatives, as far as I can tell, but in case they could be yours: They lived in Atchison, Kan., and it looks like they were born in Düsseldorf, Germany.
I also received 84 Description Only results, 13 results from the Archives.gov website, 20 results from presidential library sites and five authority records.
From the Social Security Administration to the FBI, what US federal agencies might have genealogical records of your ancestors? And how do you find them? Check out our guide to researching your genealogy in US government records.