Frequently Answered Questions

We can provide detailed documentation from the National Archives for many things as far back as the 1800s. However, with our primary focus being on ships and aircraft, the relevant records are primarily those from the 1930s through the 1970s. However, not all records for a specific topic may be accessible through U.S. government document repositories due to security classification or the fact that the creating agency has not released the documents to the public.

The “rule of thumb” is that documents are transferred to the National Archives 31 years after their creation. Therefore, records for naval ships through at least the mid-1980s should be available. However, the executive branch agencies, Congress and the judicial branch all set their own rules regarding what gets released to the National Archives for research, when it is released, and in what condition.

Yes, the National Archives has extensive collections of maps, full-size plans and plans on microfilm of buildings, ships and aircraft. The National Archives also has extensive collections of photographs, motion pictures and sound recordings through the 1970s.
The research conducted on behalf of our clients can be as narrow or as broad as they request. Certainly it is not necessary to research a ship or project much beyond the period which is of specific interest. However, narrow searches may miss important documentation. For this reason we recommend that you discuss the case with us to that we can jointly determine the most effective scope.
None of the documents or other media used in our research is available in electronic formats. The documents and plans are filed according to filing systems that have not been in use since the 1950s. Most of the documents are filed by alphanumeric filing codes that, frankly, take time to learn and understand. Therefore, while some do try to conduct their own research, they usually find very few documents, and those they do find are of limited value.
Typically our clients receive a set of documents, organized by subject, in chronological order within each subject area bound together with a report summarizing the documents and identifying important issues within the documents. Each document will have its essential portions highlighted for easy identification and the summary report will reference supporting documents by subject area and date. In addition there may also be copies of plans, photographs and personnel documents, similarly organized and highlighted. Finally, there will be a full second set of self-authenticating documents.

We provide two types of self-authenticating documents. The first are certified documents whose authenticity is attested to by the National Archives and bound together with a red ribbon. Depending on the type of media that the original documents come from, the certification process may take as little as a day or as long as six weeks. Unfortunately, during the certification process all of the documents in each box of documents for which even one document is requested to be certified are unavailable to any researcher. Because of time concerns, and that the unavailability of certain groups or types of documents may hinder our research for all of our clients, we normally provide a second type of self-authenticating copies of these documents.

This takes the form of a sworn and notarized statement, bound to the documents in the same fashion as the National Archives certification, except with a blue ribbon. These authenticated documents have been accepted by courts across the country, normally under the ancient documents exception to federal and state court hearsay rules.

However, we will provide red-ribbon-certified copies upon request.

This really depends on what your objective is. The first thing to do is to call us so that we can discuss the case and determine what, if anything, we can do on the case.

We charge by the hour, and reasonable expenses charged at our cost. Our rates vary depending on the qualifications of the researcher or staff member. Rates, terms and conditions should be discussed in detail within the context of a specific client or case. Itemized bills are sent monthly or upon completion of our work on a case. Specific invoice formats can be accommodated with sufficient advance notice.

The NARA reproduction fee schedule can be found on the internet at This schedule is effective as of February 19, 2016.

Books or other publications that we’ve written or contributed to include the following:

  1. "Williamsburgh to Prinsendam's Rescue" by Lieutenant (junior grade) Thomas F. McCaffery, U. S. Naval Reserve, Reprinted from Proceedings with permission; Copyright © 1981 U.S. Naval Institute /

    (Tom wrote this harrowing account of his role in the rescue of over 500 people off the burning cruise ship SS Prinsendam while he was serving on the crew of the SS Williamsburgh in the Pacific Ocean off Alaska. Tom and all the members of the Williamsburgh were awarded the Merchant Marine Gallant Ship Citation as a result of this daring rescue at sea.)

  2. In Peace and War: A History of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point, 2008, by J.L. Cruikshank and C.G. Kline, John Wiley & Sons, New York (for the American Merchant Marine History Project)

  3. More than Scuttlebutt: The U.S. Navy Demolition Men in WW II, 2009, Sue Ann Dunford and James Douglas O’Dell

  4. Braving the Wartime Seas: A Tribute to the Cadets and Graduates of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and Cadet Corps Who Died during World War II, 2014, published by the American Merchant Marine History Project

Did You Know?

We also research documents for harbor and waterways to address topics such as Harbor Defense Systems, British Guyana rivers and Superfund Sites. Find out more about other areas of research that we do.

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