Web Guide: Steps to Search NARA’s Online Databases

Web Guide: Steps to Search NARA’s Online Databases

See step-by-step searches of the National Archives and Records Administration's online Access to Archival Databases and Archival Research Catalog.

These step-by-step searches of the National Archives and Records Administration’s online Access to Archival Databases and Archival Research Catalog go with our September 2009 NARA Web Guide.

Search AAD
1. Go to <aad.archives.gov>. You can select a subject to search all related databases at once, but searching specific AAD databases gives you more options. Here, we’ve selected Passenger Lists under Genealogy/Personal History. Click the Search button for the passenger data file (not the files for manifest header or list of ships) you want to search.
2. Enter values, such as a last name (click Advanced Search to expand your options). NARA data-entry workers coded ages and countries of origin in the index. To search on these fields, click Select From Code List and click the check box for the code with the right age, then Submit. Click Search.
3. You can sort any column by clicking on the arrow below a column heading. Click in the View Record column of the results list for more details.
4. Matches for the Irish passenger list show the ship details, but for the German, Italian and Russian passenger lists, you have to search another database to get ship details. In that case, jot down the manifest identification number in the passenger list file.
5. Use the back arrow in your Web browser to return to the list of databases (“List of Series”). Click on the Search icon for the Manifest Header Data File that goes with the passenger list you just searched.
6. Type in the manifest identification number and click Search.

7.  Click the View Record icon. The results show the ship’s name, port of departure and date of arrival. To see the names of other passengers on the same voyage, return to the passenger list file and run a search on the manifest identification number.

Search ARC
1. Go to <archives.gov/research/arc> and click the yellow search button in the left margin. Click the Advanced Search link for more search options. Choose a type of search using the buttons at the top. You could choose People to find personal names, but the Archival Descriptions search (which we’re using here) is more comprehensive because it looks at the entire catalog entry.
The Digital Copies search finds records for which NARA has digital copies in AAD. Organizations lets you search for entities that created the records.
2. Type a name or topic (we used Spanish-American War) into the “with all of the words” or exact phrase box. You also can select the type of archival records you’re looking for. The search fields under Location of Archival Materials, Level of Description and Date Options are handiest for refining your search.
3. View the search results. The globe means an online source is available (which may be another Web site or may mean you can order copes online). The CD icon means NARA has digitized copies in AAD.
4. Click on a record title to view record details (we clicked on result No. 7, with the CD icon), such as the creator, alternate titles and whether the record is available on microfilm. This page may link to another Web site that has these records or to NARA’s Order Online system. 
5. Click the tabs for more about the record. Scope and Content tells you what kind of information is in the records. Archived Copies gives information on record copies at NARA facilities. Hierarchy links to the record group and series the title is part of, which may lead to other helpful resources. Digital Copies (shown here) displays the actual records if they’re in AAD (you won’t see this tab if NARA doesn’t have digitized copies).

From the September 2009  Family Tree Magazine

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