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Friday, July 22, 2005

Archives Redux

Well, the National Archives website is back up and running. Sort of.

Don't try typing in "www.nara.gov" as I tend to do: you won't be redirected [Update: This redirect has since been repaired]. And you'll find that a few of the links on the site don't work, including one to the AAD, which holds the World War II enlistment database I complained about recently.

On the bright side, the site seems much more welcoming, and navigation has been improved with less reliance on pull-down menus. Their prominent inclusion of "most requested" and "often requested" resource lists is also helpful.

Let's hope they don't stop at redesigning, and start adding even more genealogical databases and indexes to the site. Broad outlines of archival holdings are great, but how about more names and dates? Arguing that they have too much material to put everything online misses the point. We don't want everything—just the good stuff. The BLM database of land patent images (now offline for "security" reasons) was a good start. They can't always leave it to private companies to do the job—how long has Ancestry.com been working on their database of World War I draft registration cards, twelve years?

To be fair, the Archives website does have some digitized records of interest to genealogists. See Archival Research Catalog: Historical Documents Online for links to selected court, immigration and military records, as well as resources for African- and Native-American researchers.

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