Glossary search

record group


(also archive group), n. ~ A collection of records that share the same provenance and are of a convenient size for administration.


A record group is a hierarchical division that is sometimes equivalent to provenance, representing all the records of an agency and its subordinate divisions. However, the records of a large agency may be broken into several record groups, treating the records of different divisions as separate collections rather than as a series.

(APPM2 1989, p. 1.0A) A body of organizationally related records established on the basis of provenance with particular regard for the administrative history, the complexity, and the volume of records and archives of the institution or organization involved.
(Holmes 1984, p. 166) Before the National Archives began using the term 'record group' the Public Record Office in Great Britain was using the term 'archive group' to designate the records of an entire agency, no matter how large, including the records of entire ministries. The British practice, we believed, if applied in the National Archives, could lead sometimes to groupings too large for administrative convenience. We thought it better to divide the records of such large 'agencies' as departments into a number of separate record groups, usually reflecting the bureaus within departments and of 'convenient size' for administration. ¶ On the Continent the French term 'fonds d'archives' – meaning the body or stock of records of a record-creating unit – was widely known in archival literature and accepted as the basis of arrangement work. . . . As applied in practice, the records of any subordinate office that kept records, no matter how small the office, were considered a 'fonds.' This was going to the other extreme of 'convenient size,' and the 'record group' principle as defined in the National Archives united the records of subordinate offices under their superior offices, usually up to the bureau level. Also the records of small though essentially independent satellite agencies were often included with the records of major agencies to which they were related.