national archives building

Navigating Our Nation's Federal Records

September 28, 2022 and October 5, 12, 19, 26, 2022
Wednesdays, 6:00-7:30 p.m. ET
David Allen Lambert
Ann Lawthers
Rhonda R. McClure
Melanie McComb
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The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, DC is home to a genealogical goldmine of federal records kept since our nation’s founding. From military pension records to federal land grants to immigration and naturalization records and beyond, this five-session online seminar will introduce you to the many records available, discuss how to access them from home or in-person, and demonstrate how to leverage these resources in your family history research.

This course includes five 90-minute classes, exclusive access to handouts and recordings of each presentation, and in-depth Q&A sessions with the instructors.



September 28

Class 1: Overview of the NARA System
Presented by Ann G. Lawthers

The website of the National Archives and Records Administration ( is your at-home portal to a myriad of records. This first class will demonstrate how to navigate the online catalog, access or request records from home, and, because not everything is online, discuss tips for planning a research trip. We will also discuss the difference between the National Archives in Washington, DC and the regional branches found across the country.


October 5

Class 2: Military and Pension Files
Presented by David Allen Lambert

The military records at the National Archives detail service given between 1775 and 1916. Military expert David Allen Lambert will discuss how to locate, access, and utilize compiled service records, pension applications, and other resources that detail your veteran ancestor’s service. He will also discuss briefly more recent records available through the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis (WWI–present).


October 12

Class 3: Federal Land Records: Bounty Land, Land Entry Files, and Homesteading
Presented by Melanie McComb

Throughout its history, the United States has offered several land incentives to encourage settlement and migration westward. In this class, Genealogist Melanie McComb will first discuss federal bounty land warrants for military service between 1775 and 1855 and then delve more deeply into homesteading records including land entry case files, patents, and tract books.


October 19

Class 4: Immigration and Naturalization Records
Presented by Rhonda R. McClure

Passenger arrival records, border crossings, passport applications, and records of special inquiry are just some of the types of immigration and naturalization records available at the National Archives. Senior Genealogist Rhonda R. McClure will provide an overview of these important resources, how to access them, and how to make the most of them in your family history research.


October 26

Class 5: Even More Records!
Presented by Ann G. Lawthers

Beyond military, land, and immigration, the National Archives holds several records of value to genealogists. This final class will review some of those collections including maps (census enumeration districts, surveys, etc.), federal employee records, congressional notes, diplomatic papers, ships logs, and more.

Research and Library Services
David Allen Lambert
Military Records
New England
Eastern Canada
Areas of expertise: New England and Atlantic Canadian records of the 17th through 21st century; American and international military records; DNA research; and Native American and African American genealogical research in New England. 
Education and Programming
Ann Lawthers
Migration Patterns
New England
Mid-Atlantic States
Areas of expertise: New England, New York, Mid-Atlantic states, the southern colonies, Ireland, and migration patterns.
Research and Library Services
Rhonda R. McClure
Immigration and Naturalization
Genealogical Software
Areas of expertise: Immigration and naturalization, late 19th and early 20th century urban research, missionaries.
Research and Library Services
Melanie McComb
Eastern Canada
Areas of expertise: Irish genealogy, DNA, Atlantic Canada, Jewish genealogy, and military records.