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The FBI Case Files

FBI Case FileLike a good mystery? Then take a look through Fold3’s collection of old FBI Case Files. Written between 1908 and 1922 when the FBI was still just the Bureau of Investigation, these files document the fledgling organization’s investigations into crimes against the United States and violations of federal laws.

The case files (via the National Archives) cover a vast range of topics, though common ones include investigations into suspicious or anti-American activities of German aliens during WWI and Mexican aliens during the Mexican revolution; conditions at the US-Mexico border; instances of draft-registration avoidance; violations of Prohibition and its precursors (like the Reed Amendment and Wartime Prohibition Act); and alleged communist, socialist, or otherwise radical activities.

With more than 2.3 million records, the majority about individuals, this collection can also be a good place to look for your ancestors, especially if they’re of German or Mexican descent. Not only do the case files give details on the individuals being investigated, but they also commonly mention interviews with family, employers, and neighbors, giving you a more rounded look into an ancestor’s past rather than simply the bare facts.

A few cases you might find interesting include the following:

  • An investigation by O.L. Tinklepaugh into a probable violation of Mexican neutrality in Texas. A rancher reported that Mexican bandits stole his cattle, but the truth of the situation isn’t what you might expect.
  • An investigation by Arthur Denison into an unusual crossing at the California-Mexico border. Discover why Denison was worried about “engendering a misunderstanding with the Mexican border officials.”
  • An investigation by Charles Scully into a report of mysterious signals flashing at night from the house of Howard Vibbert in Connecticut. Could Vibbert be a German spy? Or does he just have a nosy neighbor?
  • An investigation by H.P. Shaughnessy into a man pretending to work for the Secret Service to con a woman in Boston into a fake engagement. Find out in the report what was more important to Shaughnessy than the young lady’s broken heart.
  • An investigation by J.W. Bales into a letter reporting irregularities in a Delaware draft board’s classification decisions. Decide for yourself whether the actions of the draft board were suspicious, or if the letter writer had a personal grudge.

Explore the issues that interested the Bureau of Investigation in the first quarter of the 20th century—and maybe even find an ancestor along the way—in the FBI Case Files.


  1. I think this would be very interesting.

  2. Found my great-uncle, Heinrich Schmidt in the FBI case files. Thank you!

  3. Would access to these files help clear up information as to why there is nothing to be found on a person except census files and death certificate?

  4. I am looking for information on my grandfather. His name is William Franklin Stone. He was allegedly involved in case of inbezelment at a bank in Medford, Massachusetts, around 1920.

  5. I had to investigated for secrete 1952

  6. For got g- mail pass code

  7. I’ll bet my G Grandmother would be in those files. I have a letter from her brother to the Gov. saying that “she is a faithful American Citizen” so that she could teach. Why? Because her deceased husband was the child of German immigrants.

  8. I’m looking for my Grandfather Sydney Lawson Campbell he was a WW2 vet station in Oklahoma City OK he met Bonnie Jean Walker he was born in 1914 died in 85 when I was 2 I’d like to know about his service or if he was Native American I don’t know my dad or anything about the Campbell’s but I know Syd was a ww2 vet and I’d just like to know about his service to know my grandpa I never knew how can I find this info or his family just asking politely thank you

  9. I have no money. But I do no babies have a mommy. And I personally gave birth to nine. Only one is of age. The 8 I want back. Then maybe I can pay

  10. I do not want to purchase fold 3……Quit sending these notices to me.

    • It’s simple to stop receiving emails from them…just click on “unsubscribe’ at the bottom of their email.

  11. My family is german and mexican

  12. I am not interested in purchasing fold3. Please do not ask again. Thanks

  13. I had a subscription to Fold 3 and I didn’t find anything there that wasn’t already on and just like with Ancestry there are very few Maryland records. Not worth the money IMO

  14. I’m searching for my uncle, James W. Kline. My daddy’s and his brothers and sisters have told me was a fighter pilot during WW2. At some point, he is purported to have been shot down, but survived. They (my other aumts and uncles, including my Daddy,) say he had plastic surgery on his face making us all believe we wouldn’t recognize him if we tripped over him. The last we saw of him was between February 1942 and August 1944. By now he may have passed, since all his brothers and sisters have There were nine of them. I’m the only fool left trying to solve this family mystery; and I’m 75.

  15. The FBI used to stand for Federal Bureau of Investigation; but under the latest leadership and affirmative action personal, it should be change to the Federal Bureau of Incompetence. They have the latest technology and equipment. What they lack is Intelligence and common sense.