Only On Paper

Only On Paper

How to get NARA records that aren't microfilmed or digitized.

NARA hasn’t microfilmed most military service and pension files, but it’ll make photocopies for a fee. The voluminous, fragile collections can complicate the job of locating and photocopying files. Record fees rose in October 2007, to $25 for service files predating Oct. 31, 1912. Civil War and later pensions jumped from $37 to $75 (for up to 100 pages, plus 65 cents for each additional page). A pre-Civil War pension file now costs $50. Fortunately, I’d already ordered my ancestors’ Civil War service and pension files — at the current rates, they’d average out to $4.17 and $2.34 per page, respectively.

If the records you need aren’t in online resources and you can’t avoid fees by personally visiting NARA in Washington, DC, it may be cheaper to hire an onsite researcher — see <> for information. Last year, I paid an hourly researcher $81.50 for copies of two Civil War service files and two Civil War pension files, which I received within two weeks. The same copies would cost $200 from NARA, with a two-to-four-month wait.

If you’re going ahead with a NARA records request, for pre-WWI conflicts, see our step-by-step instructions for using NARA’s Order Online system on the previous page.

There’s a good chance your WWI and WWII relatives’ service records were among those destroyed in a 1973 fire at NARA’s National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. Eighty percent of service files for Army personnel discharged between Nov. 1, 1912 and Jan. 1, 1960, burned. Still, consider putting in a request. For privacy reasons, only limited information from these files is released to the general public; for more details, see <>. But veterans and their next-of-kin are eligible to get free copies of surviving military personnel record for World War I and later conflicts; see <> for instructions.

From the November 2008 Family Tree Magazine  

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