Post Offices Records – where and how to search – 

Records of Postmaster Appointments – Postmaster appointments before 1832 are found in National Archives microfilm publication M1131, Record of Appointment of Postmasters, Oct. 1789-1832, (4 rolls).  Postmaster appointments after 1832 are found in National Archives microfilm publication M841, Record of Appointments of Postmasters, 1832-Sept. 30, 1971 (145 rolls).

Sometimes control of a post office was a family affair. Women were frequently appointed postmasters of small rural post offices, with their numbers increasing in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Records of Post Office Locations – Information about the physical location of post offices is found in National Archives Microfilm Publication M1126, Post Office Department Records of Site Location, 1837-1950 (683 rolls). The quantity and quality of information about each post office varies but it may be useful for learning more about an ancestor’s community.  Site reports become more common and more informative after 1870. Information generally includes the post office’s proximity to nearby rivers, creeks, postal routes, railroad stations, and to other post offices. Many postmasters requested permission to move the post office to a more convenient location. They frequently submitted maps with the site reports. Most maps relating to rural post offices are hand-drawn, while many relating to cities are annotated copies of published street maps, especially after 1900.

Other Microfilmed Records include:

  • M601, Letters Sent by the Postmaster General, 1789-1836 (50 rolls).
  • M2076, Index and Registers of Substitute Mail Carriers in First and Second Class Post Offices, 1885-1903 (1 roll).
  • M2077, Indexes to Rosters of Railway Postal Clerks, ca. 1883-ca. 1902 (1 roll).
  • T268, Journal of Hugh Finlay, Surveyor of Post Roads and Post Offices, 1773-1774, Accounts of the General Post Office in Philadelphia and of the Various Deputy Postmasters; “The Ledger of Benjamin Franklin” – Jan. 1775-Jan. 1780 (1 roll)

Post Office Names – Before 1891, the Post Office Department had no written policies about post office names. Post office names were derived from several sources, including names of towns, townships, neighborhoods, crossroads, or from the postmaster’s name or place of business. In 1819 the post office of Carson’s Tavern, OH, was obviously the location of a tavern operated by postmaster William J. Carson, while in 1821-1823 the post office of Gassway’s Mill, OH, was undoubtedly the location of a mill operated by postmaster Nicholas Gassaway.

Where to find these records – The Microfilm Reading Room (Room 400) in the National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC, has microfilmed post office records. For listings of records available as National Archives publications, see listings for Record Group 28, Records of Post Office Department, in Microfilm Resources for Research: A Comprehensive Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1996).

For More Information:

  • For a listing of some postal maps, consult: Janet L. Hargett, comp., List of Selected Maps of States and Territories. Select List No. 29.
  • Many books about post offices and postmarks have been published. A selection of these is available and you may borrow them through interlibrary loan. Contact your local public library for assistance. These are not in NARA.
  • Gallagher, John S. The Post Offices of Ohio. Burtonville, MD: The Depot, 1979.
  • Grabb, John R. A History of the Chillcothe and Other Ross County, Ohio Post Offices, 1799-1987. Chillicothe, OH: J.R. Grabb, 1987.
  • Prechtel-Kluskens, Claire. Birthplace and Compensation of Postmasters in Ohio, 1816-1823. The Report 33 (1993): 79-97, 134. Mansfield, OH: The Ohio Genealogical Society, 1993.

Indexes to Rosters of Railway Postal Clerks, ca, 1883-ca. 1902 (M2077): On this single roll of microfilm are reproduced three indexes to rosters of railway clerks. These records consist of three leather-bound volumes covering the year 1) ca. 1883-ca. 1886, 2) 1886-ca. 1892, and 3) ca. 1892-ca. 1902. They contain two separate indexes: an index to railway postal routes and an index to railway postal clerks.


How to locate the Microfilm Roll Number relating to the Appointment of a Postmaster – In the state roll, the entire record (1832-1971) has been filmed in alphabetical order by State, and thereunder by county (parish, district, etc.).

To compile the history of a post office, first select the appropriate State roll and turn to the county in which the office was established. If the name of the office is in one of the chronological lists for the county, it can usually be presumed to be a new office. If its name or location had not been changed, or if the office had not been reestablished, its history is continued thereafter in succeeding frames in the alphabetical list for its county. If the earliest name of the post office is unknown, it can sometimes be found by beginning at the last frame for the county in which it is located and then successively viewing earlier frames for the county until another name or location is shown for that office. If the name of the office is in the first alphabetical list for its county, its earlier history is given in the record of appointment of postmasters for the period 1780 – 1832, which is also among the National Archives of the United States. 

Errors and variants in spelling of names of States, counties, post offices, and postmasters occasionally occur in the records, and some entries are partly or wholly illegible. It is, however, sometimes possible to verify or to reconstruct these entries by referring to other postal records in the National Archives holdings.