National Archives

Website review by
Erin Brereton, Common Sense Media
National Archives Website Poster Image
Treasure trove of history, lineage, and other resources.

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The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about historical eras, government actions, and other topics. Finding materials will give kids a chance to learn about research and finding data online. They'll see different kinds of official documents, ranging from famed U.S. historical items to land records, and can learn about their family tree, genealogy research, and Americans' experience coming to the U.S. several decades ago. The amount of information may be initially overwhelming, but they can learn to target specific topics and projects.

Positive Messages

The site encourages users to explore and appreciate history.


The site has some statistical information about events like murders but doesn't really feature graphic material. 


A few entries contain references to swear words, although the documents are generally academic. An article contains the word "s--t," for example, and "f--k" is used in a White House interview transcript.


An online store sells books, document copies, apparel, and other merchandise, but kids won't be exposed to ads.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website features legal and historical records, documents, and other materials from the federal government. Most docs can be accessed online, but you'll have to send away for some. Users can post comments on blog items, but they won't appear until a moderator approves them. Comments, which are reviewed and posted Monday through Friday, can't contain bad language, hurtful comments, or other inappropriate content. It's a place for serious research, and if your kids are history buffs and want to see the real thing, this is a resource they'll appreciate.

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What's it about?

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website features legal and historical records, documents, and other materials from the federal government. Users can order veteran military service records; view census data; conduct genealogy research; and obtain documentation that relates to key historical periods and events. According to NARA, only 1 to 3 percent of all legal and historical documents are deemed important enough to keep on file, but NARA's website makes it look like much more.

Is it any good?

Kids will find a plethora of resources for personal and academic research on the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) website. Some items, such as the microfilm holdings, have to be viewed at a physical NARA location or ordered, but the site provides online access to plenty of fascinating items, ranging from census records to executive orders signed by presidents dating back to Herbert Hoover. The site is definitely a research-based resource. You won't see bright colors, animation, or other items that make it feel like it was designed for kids. However, its content can help kids learn about history, the U.S. population, and government and can be used to supplement papers, reports, and classroom instruction. NARA's site isn't necessarily structured to help users roam for random facts; you have to enter a search term to find information in many of the sections, so it works best if you know what you’re looking for. However, if kids aren't using the site to track down a specific document or type of information, NARA's blogs, genealogy research, and other additional resources can provide plenty of interesting reading material.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about finding information online. How can you tell if it's credible? Some sources, like Wikipedia, rely on regular folks for its information, so you can't always be sure it's valid. What makes this site different?
  • Talk about the difference between opinion and fact. If you find information on a website that isn't from a reputable source, such as a university, should you check another site to see if it's correct?

  • The site contains information about a number of written historical documents and history-based videos. Discuss how messages differ in speeches and written records. Does your child feel one communication method is more effective? Why?

Website details

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