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NARA Has Me Locked Out

War of 1812 records are not available online and must be ordered from the National Archives. This week I tried to order my ancestor John Carter’s Bounty Land Warrant Application without success. I could not place an order on their website.

This tale has a backstory.

Years ago, maybe 10, when online ordering was new, I did request several files for the National Archives. I must have been required to set up an account at that time.

Neophyte as I was to computer transactions, I did not keep a good record of how to log in to their website.

When I tried again this week, I may or may not have had the correct username and password. Ordinarily this would not be too much of a problem, because they will email new ones if you forget yours.

The bigger problem was the security question. Did they even have a security question when I first registered for an account? After such a long time, I have no memory of it.

When the site asked for the question and answer this week, I was stumped. They denied access and offered no way to retrieve this information.

Because I was blocked from logging in with my old credentials, I attempted to set up a new account. The site would not let me do this, saying I already had one.

What can I do? Without a viable account, I cannot order anything from NARA. There is no way to log in to the account I already have, and they will not let me set up a new one unless I use an alias. I am not about to start lying to the federal government.

I cannot understand why I need to answer security questions to place an order for a 200-year-old record. No one’s privacy is at stake. I shop online all the time, and other merchants to do bother with this extra step. By imposing this, the Archives has prohibited me from buying anything from them.

The workaround? My husband/tech advisor kindly set up an account of his own and ordered the record for me. We used a joint email address so I will receive my document without him having to act as a go-between.

NARA, clean up your act. Put the records online or make your site more user friendly.

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