The National Archives at Boston

Genealogy: Resources Available to You

The most widely used microfilm and original records for family history research are listed below. Click on a title to read more about any particular type of record.

See Also:


Census Records

The National Archives Boston has access to multiple subscription databases on the Internet such as Ancestry.com, Heritage Quest, and Fold3.com (formerly Footnote). Research in the US Census from 1790-1930 can be conducted onsite using one of our Public Access Computers.

Federal population census schedules, taken every ten years, for all states and territories 1790-1930 (nearly all of the 1890 schedules were destroyed by fire in 1921).

The 1940 US Census will be released in 2012.

Other census schedules

  • Non-population census schedules for Massachusetts 1850-1880 and Vermont 1850-1870
  • Special census of Union veterans and widows of veterans 1890

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Naturalization Records

Order copies online Now you can order copies of naturalization records online.

Records of immigrants living in New England who applied for American citizenship through the courts.

Federal court records (U.S District Courts and U.S. Circuit Courts)

  • Connecticut, 1842-1991
  • Maine, 1790-1991
  • Massachusetts, 1790-1991
  • New Hampshire, 1873-1977
  • Rhode Island, 1842-1991
  • Vermont, 1801-1982

Records of select state, county, and municipal courts for Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, 1790-1906.

Non-Federal Connecticut courts, 1790-1974. Included are records of Connecticut Superior Courts, Courts of Common Pleas, District Courts, and some municipal courts.

Complete or partial indexes are available for these records. There is also a Soundex index to naturalization petitions and records for all Federal and non-Federal courts in the New England states covering the years 1790-1906 (Connecticut 1790-1939).

Passenger Arrival Lists

Microfilm copies of the lists for the ports of:

Baltimore (1820-1891) New Orleans (1820-1902)
Boston (1820-1943) New York 1820-1897
Galveston, TX (1896-1951) Philadelphia (1800-1926)
Gloucester, MA (1906-1942) Portland, ME (1820-1868; 1893-1943)
New Bedford, MA (1826-1852; 1902-1942) Providence, RI (1820-1867; 1911-1943)

At least partial indexes exist for most of the above lists.

Please also refer to Boston passenger lists held by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Customs Records

American seamen from New England are documented in U.S. Customs Service records. Researchers will need to know what ports individual seamen may have shipped out of in order to effectively use these records. To locate crew lists it is usually necessary to know the vessel name and port.

These are available for various New England ports, 1789 ca. 1950. Please inquire about using these records before visiting, since the records listed above do not exist for every New England port in all time periods.

Information may include:

  • place of birth
  • town of residence
  • physical description
  • names of relatives

Specific types of records include:

  • Crew Lists
  • Shipping Articles (which document payments
  • )
  • Records of Seamen's Protection (issued for identification)
  • Case files of Deceased and Deserted Seamen
  • Marine Hospital Returns of Seamen (not medical records, documents money withheld for dues)

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Draft, Military Service, and Pension and Bounty Land Application Files

The National Archives Boston has access to subscription databases on the Internet such as Ancestry.com, Heritage Quest, and Fold3.com (formerly Footnote). Research in the Draft, Revolutionary War Military Service, and Pension and Bounty Land Application Files can be conducted on one of our Public Access Computers.

Microfilm copies of War of 1812 Military Bounty Land Warrants; an index to compiled service records of volunteer soldiers who served in the War of 1812; the pension index for veterans of the War of 1812, the "Old Wars", Mexican War, and Indian Wars, as well as a general index to pension applications, submitted between 1861 and 1934, for military service performed up to 1916. These records cover all states.

Microfilm copies of abstracts of service records of naval officers for the period 1798-1893 and indexes to compiled service records of volunteer Union soldiers who served in organizations from each New England state.

Military Records at Waltham

  • Revolutionary War
  • War of 1812
  • Civil War
  • Naval Records
  • Other Records
  • Pension Indexes
  • Links to Other Locations

Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files

Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files for Boston (1911-1955) and Montreal (1900-1952) are a valuable resource for the study of Chinese immigration and Chinese-American travel, trade, and social and family history from the late-19th to mid-20th century.

A typical Chinese Exclusion Act case file contains information such as the subject's name; place and date of birth; physical appearance; occupation; names and relationships of other family members; and family history.

Materials in the files may include:

  • applications
  • certificates of identity and residency
  • correspondence
  • INS findings, recommendations, and decisions
  • maps of immigrant family residences and villages in China
  • original marriage certificates
  • individual and family photographs
  • transcripts of INS interrogations and special boards of inquiry
  • witness statements and affidavits

The records are indexed by the individual's name. Privacy Act restrictions may apply to some cases.

Please also see: Chinese Immigration and the Chinese in the United States

Reference Information Paper 99, 1996: Records in the Regional Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Freedmen's Bureau and Records Related to African American Families

Microfilm copies of records of the Assistant Commissioners of the Freedmen's Bureau in the Southern states as well as the registers of Depositors in the branches of the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Co., 1865-1878 (with index), and the District of Columbia Emancipation records of the Act of 1862.

These records often provide considerable information regarding African American family relations, marriages, births, deaths, occupations, and places of residence.

Materials in the files may include:

  • Names of slave owners
  • Information concerning black military service
  • Plantation conditions
  • Manumission
  • Property ownership
  • Migration

Additional records include the Compiled Military Service Records of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiments.

Dawes Commission Final Cards of the Five Civilized Tribes

Microfilm copies of the Final Cards of the Five Civilized Tribes as well as indexes to the Eastern Cherokee Applications.

An act of Congress approved in 1893 established a commission to negotiate agreements with the Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Cherokee Indian tribes. As part of a process to divide tribal land into plots to be divided among the members of the tribe, the Dawes Commission either accepted or rejected applicants for tribal membership based on whether the tribal government had previously recognized the applicant as a member of the tribe and other legal requirements.

Applicants were categorized as Citizens by Blood, Citizens by Marriage, Minor Citizens by Blood, New Born Citizens by Blood, Freedmen (African Americans formerly enslaved by tribal members), New Born Freedmen, and Minor Freedmen. The Final Cards include both approved and rejected names. Most rolls give the name, age, sex, degree of Indian blood, and roll and census card number of each person.

Other Historical Resources

We hold vast quantities of records over and above the microfilmed resources commonly used for genealogical research. Many of these records contain information pertinent to local history. It is highly probable that there are many records pertaining to your community, making these records worthy of further research.

Examples include:

  • New Deal/World War II agencies dealing with life on the home front
  • Bankruptcy case papers, including Depression-era files
  • Tax assessment lists for the post Civil-War period
  • Documentation of Federal land condemnation

Please see our Historical Documents page for more information on how to use these records.

Please see the Guide to Archival Holdings at NARA's Northeast Region (Boston) for a complete list of our holdings.

Visit Various New England Genealogical Groups' Web Sites

The National Archives at Boston >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

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