Finding Helpful NARA Publications

blog post banner finding helpful NARA Publications

Genealogists know to look for all available sources of information when doing their reasonably exhaustive search. We also know to list the resources when creating reports and proof documents.

But how do we know what we don’t know?

The best way is to keep learning. Keep reading, seek out publications about topics of interest, attend webinars and learn from other genealogists.

A great place to look for source material is the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Without knowing what sources are available, searching using the catalog is daunting. With that in mind, this blog post contains some resources from NARA to learn more about a topic you are researching. The topics are discussed from the perspective of records that NARA holds, and they could help identify sources to help solve your genealogical problem.

NARA offers Reference Information Paper (RIP) with illustrated descriptions of specific topics. The descriptions show what can be found in several different NARA record groups (RG).

NARA Select List of Publications

A list of the Reference Information Papers (RIP) can be found at:

The RIPs that have been digitized and are online will show a link to view web version of the document. If there is a pdf icon displayed at the end of the link, that means that the RIP is available for download.

NARA RIP 109 description

The RIPs that have no link associated with their description are unavailable. These appear to be those containing dated material.

NARA staff have also authored Research Reports, these are now called Reference Reports. Some are not up-to-date, and do not necessarily reflect everything that is now available online. They can provide good explanations and good ideas for what records might be available.

The Mount Vernon Genealogical Society Inc offers a page about NARA Research Reports. A good place to start would be with the Reference Reports Table. This document contains information about the status of Research Reports, as well as links to where they or similar information might be found. Links to these can be found at: