Historical Records Assistance
David Turk, U.S. Marshals Historian
Each year, the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) averages 500-700 requests for historical or genealogical information. Please note that there is no complete tally of Deputy U.S. Marshals. While we have approximately 40,000 names and references to personnel, there are names continually added to our official count. This is due to the scattered source material available to document the enormous number of Posse Members, Guards, and Deputy U.S. Marshals over a 230-year period.
For the ease of the researcher, we have compiled a "where to" list for primary sources of U.S. Marshals Service historical or genealogical material.
The U.S. Marshals Service Collections
Our research collections consist of subject area files, listings and partial references to names and copies of materials on line-of-duty deaths, official U.S. Marshals Service publications, and a small library of secondary source information. There are limited general photographs drawn from other sources with an emphasis on historical events. Most surviving original material, including oaths of office, are found at the National Archives.
Researchers are welcome to call the U.S. Marshals Service Historian, David Turk, at (703) 740-1639 or email at David.Turk@usdoj.gov on any subject of historical or genealogical interest in relation to the agency.
The best resource for original records on U.S. Marshals Service personnel is the National Archives. As the repository for all federal governmental records, their Civil Reference Division is the custodian of this material. The fastest way to reach an archivist is through their website at archives.gov – and then to their "research room" segment. You may also write their facility at:
National Archives at College Park
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001
When you contact the National Archives, it assists their search to have the following pieces of information:
- Full Name or Names
- Date of Service (or a Range of Service)
- State of Service (and if possible, district)
The following record groups maintained by the National Archives have notable references to the activities of the U.S. Marshals.
- RG 21 Records of Federal Courts (Specify State or District)
- RG 60 Letters Received by the Department of Justice
- RG 118 Records of U.S. Attorneys (and formerly U.S. Marshals)
- RG 206 Records of the Solicitor of the Treasury
- RG 527 Records of the U.S. Marshals Service
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress Manuscript Division maintains the records of most major American political figures, including the Presidents of the United States and key members of the judiciary. Application letters for appointment of U.S. Marshals are found within these letters.
In addition, their Photograph and Prints Division contains the portraiture of early U.S. Marshals.
There is much material held in state and local historical societies and archives. Photographs, news accounts, and personal papers of prominent citizens can yield much material that make reference to service.