An Underutilized Treasure! Spread the Word!!

A few months ago, my husband accepted a new job and relocated to the Washington, D.C. area, giving me the opportunity to explore the genealogical treasures held at the Library of Congress, DAR Library and the National Archives (NARA).

One underutilized “treasure” is the newly opened Innovation Hub at NARA.

It is a place where you scan the documents of our ancestors, held at NARA, for FREE! Once scanned, you keep a digital copy for yourself, then the NARA folks put your scans on their website where anyone can access them for FREE!

I visited yesterday and the room was empty.  It seems the word hasn’t gotten out yet; everyone is still standing in long lines on the public side of the building to see the Declaration of Independence. While that is also cool, it is not as cool as touching your own gg-grandfather’s pension file! or some other original document held in the Archives.

They accept groups (any 8th grade teachers or genealogical societies planning an outing?). If you are visiting as a family or solo you can pull/scan documents related to your own family or simply help scan “The Box of the Month”.  What better history lesson for your kids or grandkids (kids do have to be age 14+; exceptions require prior approval of research room management).

The process is simple.

  • Head to the researcher door at the Archives (on the opposite side of the building from the public entrance – on Pennsylvania Avenue, directly across the street from the Yellow/Archives Metro Station).
  • After you get through Security, walk straight ahead, into the ground floor research room.
  • Watch a quick Researcher Orientation Presentation (preview here) then go to the desk and get your Researcher Card (valid for a year).
  • Find the records you wish to scan (At this time, they only allow you to scan pension files and Compiled Military Service Records) with the help of the Archives staff, and put in a pull request (pulls Mon-Fri, 10:00, 11:00, 1:00, 2:00 & 3:00; no pulls on Saturday).  When you submit the request, tell them that you want the records delivered to the Innovation Hub.
  • Head to the Innovation Hub (also on the main floor next to the research room) – I have learned that the Hub employees don’t exactly adhere to “pull times”, since it isn’t that busy, they typically retrieve your file in 5-10 minutes vs. the 45 minutes it normally takes.
  • The staff in the Hub will help you scan.  The process is simple:
    • Fill out a form that tells what is in your file (to help when they later put the file online);
    • Name for your file;
    • Line each page up on the scanner and press the scan button;
    • If a page is connected to another page and can’t be placed on the scanner, notify staff and they will scan it for you on a larger scanner;
    • Return the file to Archives staff;
    • Copy the files to your flash drive  (don’t forget to bring one!).
  • Best is that once the file is scanned, they post it on their website for anyone to access for free!  If you want, they give you credit – here is an example of one I scanned

Please spread the word of this incredible new service available at no cost to all of us (which also will help to get these wonderful documents online FREE to others)!! Read more here.

What can you find?  LOTS of really COOL stuff!!  Here are a few finds from yesterday’s visit:

Inside a pension file, was a marriage record for Robert Humphreys and Sarah E. Carpenter, dated 1860.


Also in the file was a document detailing the birth of their child, Frank, signed by the mid-wife who helped deliver him.  Really cool!  Information that you would not find elsewhere!


A card for Pren Metham giving his age, occupation, birthplace, description and list of his promotions.


And a card listing briefly describing his military service (which could lead to other records such as medical records related to his stay at Hamburgh Hospital, Tennessee).


So what are you waiting for!  Plan your visit today!!


A Reader asks: Thanks for the kick to get me down there! How did you prepare? I haven’t “worked” their files yet.



11 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you for sharing this information with us. I live in CA and a trip to NARA is not in my near or distant future. However, I do know a researcher who goes there frequently. I will ask her if she is aware of this resource.



  2. Posted by Wegolf on September 12, 2015 at 7:02 PM

    Thanks for the kick to get me down there! How did you prepare? I haven’t “worked” their files yet.



  3. Thank you for this great information! I hope i can go there and take this opportunity!



  4. Also wanted to say, I am posting a link to your blog on several sites on facebook where I belong to research groups, I think they will be very grateful!



  5. […] An Underutilized Treasure! Spread the Word!!, Passage to the Past’s Blog […]



  6. Thank you for this great information! I didn’t know about this. (Now planning to add a day to my next visit to relatives in Rockville!) I wanted to let you know that this post is included in my NoteWorthy Reads #22: Enjoy your weekend!



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