1. Archive

National Archives contains treasures from old Southeast

Let's dispel a few myths about the National Archives and Records Administration's Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta. Vital records are not stored here. No real estate records, either. And the staff doesn't do credit checks.

"We have 80,000 cubic feet of records, and they are open to anyone," said Gary Fulton, archive technician. "But we only maintain records created by federal agencies." In other words, no state or county records.

So if you're looking for textual documents pertaining to one of these states _ Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee _ you'll find them in this red-brick building tucked away in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Atlanta.

Expect an interesting mix. IRS returns, federal court cases and files from the Centers for Disease Control share space with bankruptcy records from 1868 to 1876, filed by those who lost everything in the aftermath of the Civil War. The oldest document is probably a 1716 admiralty court case, said Fulton.

Researchers focusing on the Southeast may be interested in some of the rarer items, such as cemetery removal records and 500,000 photo negatives relating to the Tennessee Valley Authority project, selected records pertaining to prisoners of war confined in Andersonville, Ga., and applications from former Confederate soldiers for presidential pardons. Naturalization records, filed in federal court from 1790-1982 in any of those states, are also on tap. The bulk, though, are from 1910-1940.

Even if your ancestors hailed from above the Mason-Dixon Line, the selection of genealogical materials on microfilm makes a visit worthwhile. Census rolls, non-population census data such as agricultural and manufacturing records, passenger list indexes, border entries and passport applications from various locales are available. An extensive collection of military documents includes Revolutionary War records and an index to Confederate service records.

World War I draft registration cards are a popular draw. These are the originals! A 4- by 6-inch card is on file for anyone born between 1873 and 1900 who registered for the draft in 1917 and 1918. Within moments I found cards for three ancestors. (Order copies of the cards by mail for $10 each. To get a request form, e-mail; it takes about 10 days.)

An assortment of American Indian records includes an 1890 census of residents of the Cherokee Nation, Chickasaw Muster Rolls: 1837-39, and Ottowa and Chippewa tract books.

(Log on to

regional/findaids/atlafind.html for a complete list of records.)

Archives staff will answer questions and try to handle specific requests. They will not conduct extensive research for individuals. Copies of identified textual records may be ordered by mail for about $10 each. Copies of microfilmed records are not available by mail. Make the best use of the archives by calling and making an appointment a week or so in advance of your trip. You'll also want to reserve a microfilm viewer. Viewers may be booked for 4{ hours at a time. (7 to 11:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays.)

Researchers may view textual records weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

By letting the staff know which records you need and when you plan to arrive, you'll expedite the process. Researching original records can be complex. Advance notice gives the staff time to ferret out the records you'll need.

Consider planning your trip to coincide with one of the many genealogy workshops NARA hosts each year. On Aug. 18, for example, a workshop on Tennessee Valley Authority records and World War I draft cards is scheduled from 9 to 11 a.m., followed by an "ask the expert" session from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $15. E-mail Charles Reeves at for details.

Call (404) 763-7477 for more information or log on to www.

Note: Clearwater reader Jean Henry says her relatives resolved a custody dispute about one relative's stash of genealogical records by placing the information on CDs. Copies were given to anyone who had an interest in the family's roots. A great way to preserve a lot of hard work!

Donna Murray Allen welcomes your questions about genealogy and will respond to those of general interest in future columns. Sorry, she can't take phone calls, but you can write to her c/o Home & Garden, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail her at

You can read Donna Allen's column online at Click on Home & Garden or type "genealogy" in the search box.