Civil Records at Archives I

By T. Juliette Arai

“What records do you have here?” is a common question we are asked everyday at Archives I (AI) in Washington, DC.  This post — Part 3 of a 3-part series — provides a brief description of the civilian agency records one can find in DC.  Part 1, Army [records at AI], and Part 2, Navy/Maritme [records at AI], were posted earlier. 

Textual Records of Civilian Agencies at Archives I

Unlike the Army and Navy/maritime records at Archives I, the date ranges for Civil records vary by record group.

With the exception of RG 21, all Civil record groups listed below are currently housed at AI; none are split between AI and Archives II – as one would find with some of the Army and Navy/maritime textual records.

The following Civil record groups (RG) are organized according to subject area.

  • District of Columbia (DC):
    • DC Government (RG 351)
    • St. Elizabeths’ Hospital (RG 418) – Case files will require proof of death or permission from the living. 
    • Fine Arts Commission (RG 66)
    • Public Buildings and Parks (RG 42)
    • National Capitol Housing Authority (RG 302)
    • National Capitol Planning Commission (RG 238)
    • Rent Commission of the District of Columbia (RG 132)
    • Federal Courts in DC:
      • U.S. Supreme Court (RG 267)
      • Administrative Offices of U.S. Courts (RG 116)
      • U.S. District Court—for DC only (RG 21) –
        • All non-DC District Court records are found at various NARA regional archives facilities.
        • Civil Action case files (1938-1969) will be housed in Lenexa, Kansas.  See note below about retrieval.
  • U.S. Court of Claims (RG 123)
  • Court of Claims Section of the U.S. Justice Department (RG 205)
  • U.S. Commerce Court (RG 172)
  • U.S. Patent Appeals to the Court of Customs (RG 503) – Numbered case files will be housed in Lenexa, Kansas.  See note below about retrieval.
  • U.S. Court of Appeals (RG 276)
  • U.S. Tax Court (RG 308)
  • Federal Judicial Center (RG 516)
  • Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (RG 482)
  • Native Americans:
    • Bureau of Indian Affairs (RG 75)
    • Indian Arts and Crafts Board (RG 435)
    • Indian Claims Commission (RG 279)
    • Lands:
      • Bureau of Land Management (RG 49)
      • Other Civilian Agencies:
        • Census Bureau (RG 29)
        • U.S. Postal Service (RG 28)
        • U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service [INS]—now called U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service [USCIS] (RG 85) – Case files will require screening prior to use.
        • War Relocation Authority (RG 210) – Case files will require screening prior to use.
        • Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury (RG 217)

As noted above, certain records—case files in RG 85 and RG 210—must be screened by a staff member before they can be made available to the public as they may contain personal information.  Researchers who wish to view case files in RG 418 will need to provide proof of death or permission from the living in order to access these records.

Additionally, records transferred to Lenexa, Kansas, can be retrieved for viewing at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.  However, please allow 3-7 days for retrieval.  You should also contact an archivist specializing in Civil records beforehand.

Records that researchers are most familiar with when coming to AI include:

  • DC: naturalizations; wills; guardianships; building permits; deed books; probate records; St. Elizabeths’ Hospital case files
  • Federal Courts in DC: Supreme Court case files
  • Native Americans: General Correspondence from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) concerning federally recognized tribes, BIA Indian census rolls, and records of Indian tribal suits against the government
  • Lands: land entry case files
  • Others Civilian Agencies: INS subject files; INS case files (must be screened); War Relocation evacuee case files (must be screened); census records; non-population censuses; Southern Claims Commission

If you have any questions, please contact us via our email at