Guide to NARA Collection

Social Security Textual Records in NARA II

Part 3: Detailed Inventory
Introduction to the Inventory

NARA building
The College Park Facility

The Detailed Inventory presented here accomplishes three major goals, none of which are easily achievable without this Guide.

First, it is a complete, shelf-by-shelf, inventory of the entire textual holdings in NARA for RG-47. This by itself is a major achievement since there are at present count 5,059 boxes in RG-47. Of this number, 2,980 are in the smaller Archives Boxes and 2,079 are in the larger Records Center Boxes. (See earlier discussion of records process for more information.) The inventory shows precisely which boxes are on which shelves at NARA. NARA's own finding aid to RG-47 (the Master Locator Record) only provides location information for larger groupings of boxes, and is in a format which usually requires expert knowledge to decipher. So, to have a complete and accessible shelf-level inventory for the first time represents a significant aid to researchers.

As part of the inventory process, we also rationalize the earlier Abe Bortz material by pairing his descriptions with an inventory of the present locations of the boxes Bortz described in 1969. This makes the earlier Bortz Guide once again useable to researchers (the Bortz material is incorporated in full in the present Guide).

And finally, we have added new descriptions for all the boxes which have been added to RG-47 since Bortz published his book in 1969. In some cases, we have provided fairly detailed folder-level descriptions of the contents of individual boxes. In other instances, we were only able to provide the titles of the boxes. Most box titles are descriptive in some way of the contents of the box; some refer only to the numerical filing system used in the past by SSA, and hence, the researcher will need to consult the filing system codes to translate the numerical titles into content indicators. But even these limited forms of description should prove helpful. These records had no descriptive content at all prior to the publication of this Guide, so even the addition of box titles is a leap forward in the available documentation.

So the combination of the Bortz descriptive material, along with this new descriptive content, provides the first-ever complete description (albeit at a high-level in many instances) of the content of RG-47.

In order to make this massive project feasible at all (with a staff of two) we have avoided re-ploughing ground already covered by Bortz. Thus we simply adopt intact Bortz's earlier descriptions for the material he surveyed. There is, however, a serious limitation in the Bortz descriptions. In some cases Abe Bortz grouped together descriptions for several boxes into a single narrative--rather than producing a box-by-box description. In these instances, the researcher will have only an approximate idea of which boxes contain items of interest and may have to request a range of boxes in order to be certain of obtaining the desired records.

The records have been grouped in 12 artificial categories (labeled Groups 1-12), organized mostly by the SSA organization which produced the records. The particular 12 groupings we have defined are our own invention and do not correspond to anything in NARA's Master Locator Record. There are reasons we have chosen this organizing scheme. In the first instance, the records are usually identified by organizational component by NARA itself. However, NARA views each set of records as a unique collection. Consequently, there are nearly 150 separate entries in NARA's MLR for RG-47.

Because the MLR splits collections into entries in ways that are not always meaningful to researchers, we have structured our inventory into a total of 114 Tables. The Tables are separated into two groups: those records in Stack Area 130 and those in Stack Area 170. Within each of these two groups we have numbered the Tables consecutively, based on the physical order of the collections in the stacks. In other words, if you were to walk through Stack Area 130 you would find, for example, that the 9 boxes of Correspondence of Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Director Victor Christgau from 1954-1963 (Table 36) appear right before 9 boxes of Correspondence of the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance from 1936-1946 (Table 37), and this is followed by two boxes of Scripts for Radio Broadcasts from 1950-1951 (Table 38).

Using this same example, in our category schemeTables 36 and 37 appear in Group 5 whereas Table 38 appears in Group 9. This is because Tables 36 and 37 are similar in subject matter (correspondence of the Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance) whereas Table 38 involves an entirely different subject matter (radio scripts).

As a further point of reference to aid researchers, Tables which are linked to descriptions in Abe Bortz's first inventory of RG47 are further designated with a "B" indicator. This "B" indicator should alert the researcher to the fact that there is a narrative description from the Bortz book which is associated with the records in this Table.

So, the Table numbers related to the physical locations of boxes in the stacks; the 12 categories correspond to topical groupings but bear no direct relationship to the physical location of the boxes; while the MLR is neither topical nor locational but is ordered by accessions (although the MLR contains location information, the order of its entries is determined by accessions). These are three different ways to get your bearings among the same mass of material. Each is useful for certain purposes, and it is helpful to keep these distinctions in mind when searching for information within RG47.

This Guide is designed to be used without need to refer to NARA's MLR or other finding aids. It is self-contained and can be used to identify and request materials at NARA. However, since the MLR is still the official inventory for NARA's purposes, we have in each instance entered the NARA MLR entry numbers for our records groups. These MLR entries will facilitate working with NARA staff if the researcher needs assistance.

For each record grouping, we show its specific location in the five levels of NARA's locating system: Record Group, Stack Area, Row, Compartment, and Shelf, as in this example:

Table 17: HEW, BOASI, SSA - Management Planning & Service - Administrative Management (4 boxes)
47 170 86 8 6
Box 1: Division Monthly Reports - Work Plans, 1946-48
47 170 86 8 7
Box 2: Division Monthly Reports - Work Plans, 1949-50
Box 3: Division Monthly Reports - Work Plans / Work Plans and Reports on 1950 Amendments
Box 4: Bureau Monthly Reports - Work Plans / Bureau and Division Work Plans 1943-1950

This example shows that there are four boxes in this set. Box 1 is located in Stack Area 170, Row 86, Compartment 8, Shelf 6. Boxes 3-4 are in Shelf 7. In this example, the dates associated with the boxes are indicated. The only descriptive content shown is the box titles. For most of the Inventory, the box titles are the most detailed descriptive material available. In a few instances, folder-level titles may be shown, or other more-detailed descriptions may be available.

By using this detailed inventory, the researcher should be able to get an approximate idea of the topical content of various groups of boxes in RG-47, and should be able to easily complete a NARA form-14001 to retrieve boxes of interest. (See earlier detailed instructions on how to request material at NARA.)