Many of the records we search as genealogists are held by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). This is particularly true of military records which have been the topic of numerous articles in "GenWeekly." While a few types of records may be rented, the majority must be purchased by either individuals or genealogical libraries. For researchers who may need information on just one family member, it most economical to go to your local genealogical library, or the nearest Family History Center operated by the Church of Latter Day Saints. There you can view the available microfilms at minimal or no cost.
However, if you have need of a particular microfilm, (for example, the index to Civil War Soldiers) for extended periods of time or your local genealogical library does not have the film you want, you may want to purchase the microfilm for your personal use. Even if you don't own a microfilm reader, almost all public libraries have one and usually allow members of the public to use those readers at no cost. With your personal roll of microfilm in hand, you can view the actual records whenever your library is open. You can order these rolls by postal mail or by telephone.
If ordering by mail, you can submit a letter, along with your payment, or download a copy of the microfilm order form at the NARA website. The NARA order form is only available in PDF format and you will need the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader on your computer in order to open the file. You will also need a printer connected to your computer. The order form is a total of two letter-size pages and can be accessed at this link:
If you prefer to order without the order form, or for some reason you cannot download the order form, write a letter and include the following information along with the payment for your order:
- The publication number and the roll number for each roll ordered.
- Your name, address, and daytime telephone number
The cost will be $34 for each roll, which includes shipping costs within the United States. The exception to this a color microfilm publication, (M1930) which is the "Enumeration District Maps for the Fifteenth Census of the United States," (1930). This particular microfilm roll costs $51 for delivery within the United States. Personal checks and money orders are accepted.
Mail your letter, or the completed form to:
National Archives Trust Fund
P. O. Box 100793
Atlanta, GA 30384-0793
Telephone orders only accept payment via credit card. Call toll-free at 800-234-8861 or if you live in the Washington, DC area, call 301-837-2000. They accept VISA, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover (Novus). NARA does not accept cash.
According to NARA, you can expect it to take 30-60 days for delivery and they add the caveat that prices and availability are "subject to change without notice."