When the Internet can’t help you with your research, you come to the U.S. National Archives. You do not need to be an American citizen or to present credentials or a letter of recommendation. The main building is in downtown Washington, D.C., and there’s a branch at the University of Maryland. This is where you can find the duty roster for the ship your uncle served on in the Pacific in World War II or your grandfather in the Army in World War I. You also can read the papers from the investigation in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The facility also has an extensive collection of still pictures; electronic records; cartographic and architectural holdings; motion picture, sound, and video records; and Berlin Documents Center microfilm. As the Archives explains it, “The Berlin microfilm consists of personnel and related records of the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party, a.k.a the Nazi Party) and its affiliated organizations and activities from the founding of the Party in 1920 until 1945. The records are arranged into general collections by organization, by series, and then alphabetically (or, in some cases, phonetically) by family name of the individual(s) concerned.”
While this information is helpful and interesting for people who are interested in genealogy, there’s a practical application that’s been particularly helpful for people who live in areas of California that were affected by recent fires. If a person needs to replace a military Separation Document (DD Form 214 or something similar), then this is the place to go. Just insert the word Wildfire in the comments section of your request for military records. The same applies for people whose records were destroyed during hurricanes.
Our 49th state is featured in an exhibit of 32 panoramic photos taken of Alaska between 1910 and 1932 to help map the territory and restored in the past few years. Hidden Treasure: Panoramas of the Alaskan Frontier is on display indefinitely.
As each location of the Archives stores different reference materials, make sure what you want is at the College Park facility. You can start your research at home via correspondence or phone. When visiting the Archives, arrive as early as possible.