Archives Spotlight: National Archives in Boston

The National Archives holds millions of cubic feet of permanently valuable records relating to the Federal Government. Laid end to end, the papers in our holdings would circle the Earth more than 57 times.

But they are not kept in one place. Instead, we have archives in different regions of the United States. The records held there are related to the geographic area. Each of these archival facilities has a research room, where you are welcome to get a researcher card and do some work in our records.

This photograph was taken in Winthrop, MA, during the height of Hurricane Cindy and shows the heavy waves slamming into the flood walls in Winthrop Harbor. Records of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, RG 77, Construction Photographs.

The National Archives at Boston holds about 30,000 cubic feet of records dating from 1789 to the 1970s. These documents were created or received by the Federal courts and over 90 Federal agencies in New England.

If you are interested in maritime history, this is the place for you. There are records from the Boston Navy Yard and Portsmouth Navy Yard as well records on lighthouses, life saving stations, and other coastal facilities. Researchers can find information on private vessels by looking into the U.S Customs Service records; descriptions and measurements, names of owners and masters, and mortgage information may be in these documents.

Researchers interested in World War II can delve into records on arms manufacturing and research at the Watertown Arsenal and the Springfield Armory, or look at research projects from Harvard University (Harvard Radio Labs) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT Rad Lab).

Torpedoes being taken out of mothballs at the Squantum Naval Station in Massachusetts in early 1942. Records of the Squantum Naval Air Station, RG 181.

The archives also holds records for court cases, including famous cases such as the Boston schools desegregation court case (Morgan v. Hennigan), War of 1812 prize cases for Massachusetts, and the Amistad case.

For genealogists, these records may provide new and rich details about who their ancestors were and where they worked. The National Archives at Boston offers workshops on using Federal records in genealogy research, from introductory lectures to special guest speakers.

And if you are a fan of the Sound of Music, then you will be thrilled to know that the records of Maria von Trapp and her musical family are part of the archival holdings at the National Archives of Boston. Yes, the von Trapp family was real.

The declaration of Maria von Trapp lists her husband's name, date, and place of birth, the date of their marriage, and the names and dates of birth of their children. Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21.

Come visit the National Archives at Boston, and follow them on Facebook!

National Archives at Boston

2 thoughts on “Archives Spotlight: National Archives in Boston

  1. I was fortunate enough to visit this facility during the NAGARA meeting in Boston in the summer of 1990. Very cool place. While the focus is on the National Archives at Boston, I was also able to visit the Kennedy Library while I was there and found that to be another cool place. The National Archives is well represented in the Boston area. Thank you for spotlighting these.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *