Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why I won't pull the NARA file myself

It occurs to me that I should explain why I won't rush over to the National Archives & Records Administration and retrieve the homestead-stock raising land record file mentioned in today's earlier blog post titled BLM federal land questions. My DearREADERs will recall I am curious about the "stock raising" part of this homestead, and suspect there will be different forms in this file than I've encountered in my past work with plain "homestead" federal land record files.

They say curiosity kills the cat, but in this case, I don't want to kill Diane's chances of viewing her husband's ancestor's file.

Simply put - I don't want the file stuck in "to be filed" when Diane goes to the archives next week.

I am not saying the folks at the National Archives aren't busy filing things away, but several times files Ol' Myrt here has ordered were returned as "not found" or "out" for perhaps another researcher's review or to complete a digitizing request for a distant patron.

I don't want to interfere with the opportunity Diane has to access to the record.

Ideally, NARA employees refile once a box or envelope has been released by a textural researcher who signs off on the order form that the documents are no longer required.

Researchers may order files, and keep them on hold for up to 3 days normally, and longer if requested.

But what if for some unknown reason, the file isn't returned promptly to its NARA storage spot? Maybe the file gets placed on the wrong cart? This is not an indictment of NARA employees. We're all human.

Diane has assured me she will share the contents of the file once she copies it personally, so Ol' Myrt's curiosity will await her reply after her research trip.

NOTE: Cat photo courtesy of Bing.

SUPPLEMENTAL NOTE: Most of the homestead, donation and desert land claim files I viewed during the past month had apparently never been copied (per several NARA employees) as they were still firmly bound with huge 4-inch brads, several oval-type staples and a variety of straight pins. All these had to be removed by NARA employees before I could copy the files. 

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


  1. I would never have thought about a file being unavailable because it was waiting to be filed. Another great tip for those of us not used to accessing large repositories. I have ordered records from the archives, but haven't visited yet. On a small scale, a local county historical society tried to be helpful by pulling a family file for my scheduled visit. Unfortunately, in the hour it took me to drive there, the file disappeared - either accidentally taken by another researcher who had just left after working at the same table where the file was set out - or misfiled by a volunteer. Three years later it is still missing.

  2. I experienced something very similar at a state archives. In this case a client had ordered an original 18th century will to be scanned. The Archives fulfilled the request in its usual manner and provided this patron with an 11x17 black and white copy. This copy was legible, but the details of the original wax seal could not be discerned. So the client hired me to take a digital photograph closeup of the seal, about a month after they had received the b&w copy. Unfortunately, the folder was no longer in the appropriate box. The computer verified that the file had not been accessed at all since the client's request for scanning. So apparently, after scanning the will for the client, the archives employee misfiled the will. After surviving three centuries, it will probably never be found, and the client's black and white scan may be the only surviving copy.