updated 12/14/2005 6:14:20 PM ET 2005-12-14T23:14:20

Photos of natural and manmade disasters. Lists of combat air missions flown during the Vietnam War. Rolls of those who fled Irish famine for the United States in the 1800s.

And much more, all newly accessible.

The National Archives and Records Administration has made it easier to search online through tens of millions of the electronic records it holds.

The revamped Access to Archival Databases site (http://www.archives.gov/aad) allows the public to search for free through 85 million documents in 475 files amassed by more than 30 federal agencies.

The updated site went live on Monday but remains in test mode, said David Kepley, executive assistant to the assistant archivist for record services at the agency.

When the program debuted in 2003, it allowed users to search only one electronic records database at a time, slowing the hunt for information. The update allows users to search all databases in one fell swoop and comes after survey respondents and test subjects said the system needed to be more user-friendly, Kepley said.

The National Archives selected the online files from the nearly 200,000 it holds because they contain information on specific people, areas, organizations and dates. That makes them a boon for genealogy, social, political and economic research, the agency said.

In the site's first two years, the World War II Army enlistment file was the most oft-searched, accounting for one-third of all queries, according to a ranking provided to The Associated Press this year in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The databases site attracted 526,000 users in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, according to a report to Congress.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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