01 March 2014

#genchat CHALLENGE: Exploring NARA

In last night's #genchat, we discussed using the National Archives and Records Administration, commonly known as NARA, in our genealogy journey. Many participants had yet to fully explore the collections available in our national collection, so this week's challenge is designed to get you into the records and find out what might be of value to your research.


Denver Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration
Photo: ©Jen Baldwin, 2012 - 2014



Your challenge, should you choose to accept it...


Identify one record set that might help you at NARA, learn how to access it and write it up. No purchase required, but go into this as if you are going to request the records and get it ready for yourself. 


(Maybe you will even be encouraged to order the records soon!)


Here is mine.


I decided to dig into the possibility of finding one or two of my miner's in NARA's collection. The men I am researching came to the Colorado gold fields and took various routes to success. One ended up being a cattle rancher with property in Nebraska and Colorado; the other spent a decade investing in various mining operations before heading home to New Jersey. One of the best lines I got from my initial research of NARA records was this:

Think of possible ways your ancestor interacted with the Federal Government. Then pursue those records.

Examining the holdings at the Denver branch, I found that they have Bankruptcy Case Files. I think it is likely that either or both of these men may have found themselves in this circumstance. It's just a hunch, really, but its worth investigating, I think. Although the information online is limited, they have bankruptcy, civil cases, court of appeals and criminal cases; all available to order.


Just these files does not warrant a full trip to the Denver branch for me, however. I need to find more and have a full list of potential research in order to make this drive (about two hours one way for me). I utilized the "Guide to Archival Holdings: Alphabetical List of Record Holdings" for Denver to dig a bit deeper.


Due to the various bits of information I have about these two men, I was able to locate two additional sources that may help me. List includes the title and Record Group (RG) number:


  • Attorneys, United States RG 118. This collection specifically refers to US Attorneys appointed under the Department of Justice. Although I have not uncovered any evidence of that, there is still a possibility that my guy may have been involved in a case dealing with a US Attorney, making this a far-fetched, but still valid, resource for me. Before I pursue it however, I will do more local work into his career as an attorney. 
  • Bureau of Mines, US RG 70. The record description indicates the dates of 1860 - 1996, so it begins early enough to potentially cover data on either or both of my guys. The description does not detail what is included in the earliest years of the set (1860-1900), so additional work on my part is required to understand if this is a valid resource for me or not. 


I will also need to examine the collections at the Kansas City facility to examine the possibility of records on the miner turned cattle rancher.


I would invite you to take a closer look at the potential resources held at NARA. Look from a national perspective, but also at what each individual branch has in its collections.


Will you accept the CHALLANGE?


Our next #genchat will be March 14, on the topic of "Early Census Years." You can find the full schedule on Conference Keeper