Christmas at the National Archives

Only someone interested in history and/or genealogy can fully appreciate my excitement when I pulled into the parking lot at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland in April 2012. Would I really find as many documents as I had been led to believe, or was it another search that would provide little new information?

What did I need to do to gain access to the archives? A research card was needed, which necessitated showing a photo id such as a passport or driver’s license, having a picture taken, and watching a short video explaining the rules of handling the records.  Most   of my procedural questions were accurately answered on the FAQ page in advance of my visit at: http://www.archives.gov/publications/general-info-leaflets/71-06-dc-area-records.html .

After taking care of the initial red tape, I was ready to go, imagining myself pouring through all the mysterious documents by that afternoon.  Unfortunately, it took much longer than I had envisioned. I provided my archivist, Elizabeth Gray, with some pertinent names and dates for one of the afternoon pulls, and out came a cart with twenty boxes – each the size of an old-fashioned card catalog drawer filled with index cards.   How could I ever accomplish anything in four days?  Nevertheless, I began going through them card by card, and I was able to find a few cards containing information on Dad and his family such as these three:

File cards from National Archives II- Record Group 59

File cards from National Archives II- Record Group 59

I was discouraged but determined to find more than just index cards. The following morning, another search uncovered a list of Americans granted passports during the month of April 1941. Dad’s name was on the list, stating that he was being issued his passport on April 29, along with a man named Jerry. (This will not be the last we will hear of Jerry.)

American Passports Issued April 1941 in Moscow

American Passports Issued April 1941 in Moscow

Admittedly this was not enough. I returned from lunch optimistic that I would be successful with my next pull request.  I decided that, perhaps, I needed to expand my search in case the documents had been misfiled.

I waited and watched the board near the front of the room until my name appeared.  It was like Christmas had come to me at the National Archives!  I was given several boxes, and like I had guessed, the documents I had been seeking had been filed incorrectly.

Inside one of the boxes, I found a stack of papers stapled together. With little time left before the end of the day, I carefully picked through the papers and realized I did not travel to Maryland in vain.

Memo- January 19, 1942, Kuibyshev

Memo- January 19, 1942, Kuibyshev

I took pictures of as many documents as possible and returned to my hotel. I was feeling excited, relieved, and impatient for the next day.  Would I be able to sleep knowing I had found my treasure?

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About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as ancestry.com, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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