Your “Easy” Button for the Pacific Region National Archives Website

On saturday, 16 Oct 2010, I spoke at the 30th Anniversary of KIN-DIG, the annual workshop of the Antelope Valley CA Genealogical Society.  Also speaking was Kerry Bartels, archivist of the National Archives Pacific Region, at Perris, Riverside County CA.

What an amazing event!  With anniversary cake.  And a room-full of genealogy vendors.  And a sell-out crowd of eager genealogtists who had come to learn what is new and exciting in genealogy–I spoke on using American Court Records and How to Find “Lost” Records.

And learn they did!  Even me!  We all got a walk-through on the National Archives website:

This new research facility holds the records that were formerly at Laguna Niguel.  It took 4 moving vans 4 months to transfer the Pacific Region’s share of more than 10 billion paper records and 30 billion electronic records held and preserved by the National Archives.  Arizona, Southern California, Clark County Nevada, Hawaii, Guam, and American Samoa are part of the Pacific Region.  Archivist Bartels taught us how to find records online for individuals from Record Groups, sub-Groups, and Records Series using finding aids and indexes prepared by archivists.

You see, it is a matter of jurisdiction and provenance.  Jurisdiction is the government authority and the provenance is the specific agency or government entity that creates the records. 

  1.  If you work only from indexes and finding aids, and you find nothing–where else can you go to locate entries on your ancestor? 
  2. If you work only online and the records you need are not yet digitized–where else can you go to find entries on your ancestor? 
  3. If the records you want have not been microfilmed, they are probably not yet digitized.  Partners like Ancestry. com and Footnote. comhave been using the filmed records first because they are easier and less costly to digitize.  But these records now online–census records, passenger lists and naturalizations, Revolutionary War Pension Records–are only a miniscule portion of those 10 billion paper records!

You are back to using finding aids and indexes first, then checking specific record groups and series for other record catagories that also list your ancestor and describe his activities.  I do recommend that if you are lucky enough to live within the Pacific Region, that you visit the new National Archives branch at 23123 Cajalco Road, Perris CA 92570. 

Whether you live there or not, I suggest you request a copy of Kerry Bartels instructive handout, with examples, for searching the website:  Step-by-step directions in this handout will walk you through  the site layer-by-layer.  What could be difficult gets an “easy’ button.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  I printed the entire guide to the Archival Holdings at Riverside CA so I could study it carefully and work my way around the website in preparation for my own visit to the facility.  I went to Laguna Niguel to search several times and felt well rewarded.  The volume of records available to search now is so much greater.  What an exciting thing to look forward to!

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