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Human Relations Area Files (HRAF)

Location: Microfiche Cabinet 17, Drawers 6-8


The Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) is a  microfiche collection of mostly primary source materials on cultures or societies representing all major areas of the world. HRAF was founded and continues to exist with one primary mission in mind — to encourage and facilitate the cross-cultural study of human culture, society and behavior.  The materials include many rare sources as well as English translations of foreign texts.

HRAF is very useful for cultural comparisons.
Examples:  adoption practices, kinship terminologies, hunting and trapping procedures.
HRAF is also very useful for studying specific or all aspects of a particular culture.
Examples:  Copper Eskimo, Iroquois, Tlingit.

An electronic version of the Human Relations Area Files is available at eHRAF  and is produced by the Human Relations Area Files, Inc. (HRAF) at Yale University. The mission of HRAF, a non-profit consortium of universities and colleges, is to encourage and facilitate worldwide and other comparative studies of human behavior, society, and culture. An online user’s guide is available for searching this electronic version. With 360 Cultures and over 1 million pages of indexed ethnographic info (and several decades worth of work), the microfiche is still much bigger than the eHRAF which was started in 1997 and now has 137 cultures and over 350,000 indexed pages. There are many components that are not in the microfiche; for example, no works after 1993, no U.S. immigrant cultures, and no cultural summaries (from the Encyclopedia of World Cultures). eHRAF is a mixture of old and new, 60 % being from material from the microfiche. When a new culture is added to  eHRAF,  only relevant information from the microfiche is used and more recent information is added.  It is best to first use eHRAF and browse the cultures that are listed and if a particular culture or society is not found, search the microfiche collection.

How to search the collection


HRAF is organized by two main resources:
Outline of World Cultures (OWC) Location: Microfiche Cabinet 17, Drawer 6-8, HRAF OWC
Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM)  Location:  Microfiche Cabinet 17, Drawer 6-8, HRAF OCM

(1) Outline of World Cultures:

The HRAF collection is organized into separate Cultural Files.  Each cultural file contains
descriptive information on one culture or on closely related groups of cultures.  These
cultural files are listed in the manual Outline of World Cultures (OWC).  The OWC is an
inventory and classification of the known cultures of the world and is organized geographically.

Each distinct culture or group is designated by a name and unique letter/number code called the OWC code.  The first letter of the code corresponds to one of the eight major
geographical regions of the world:
A=Asia            F=Africa                N=North America    R=Russia/Soviet Union
E=Europe        M=Middle East      O=Oceana               S=South America

The second letter of the code represents a regional subdivision (political or geographical-cultural).  The number of the code is a group identifier.
Example:  NM9    N=North America
M=Southwestern states
9=Group identifier (Iroquois)

A comprehensive alphabetical index at the back of the OWC provides access to a specific culture when its geographical region is not known.

Note:  The OWC lists all known cultures of the world (past and present) and therefore is much more extensive than HRAF (i.e. not all cultures listed in OWC are in HRAF).  Click here for a list of the files available at Truman.
(2)  Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM):

OCM is HRAF’s subject classification system which reflects all aspects of man’s behavior, social life, customs, material products, and ecological settings.  The OCM consists of distinct subject categories.  Each category is briefly defined.  Coverage of each category is discussed along with cross references to other related categories.

Each category is designated by a unique code.  The code consists of a 3-digit number:  the first two digits represent the general subject category.  Each of these categories is further subdivided into more specific, related terms, indicated by the third digit.


60 KINSHIP — general statements dealing with several specific aspects of the general characteristics and component terminology of kinship systems and with the specific patterns of behavior prevailing between kinsmen who do not belong to the same nuclear or polygamous  family.  For kin relationships within these types of family structure see Category 503.



603 GRANDPARENTS AND CHILDREN — patterns of behavior between grandparents and grandchildren; respective rights, privileges, and powers of the relatives involved; relationships between great uncles and aunts, grand nephews, and nieces and further living lineal ancestors and descendants; etc.  See also; Activities and the status of the aged……………………………………………………………….88

A comprehensive subject index at the back of the OCM helps to access specific cultural traits.

How to research an ethnic group:

1.  Look up the group’s name in the index of the Outline of World Cultures.
Location:  Microfiche Cabinet 17, Drawer 6-8 HRAF OWC
Note the letter/number code for the group –e.g. NF6 for Blackfoot.
Check the description of the group–Is this what you are looking for?

2.  Check the list of groups by code to see if Truman has information on this group.

3.  Look in Microfiche Cabinet 17, Drawers 6-8.  They are arranged by the group code.
On the left side of the fiche is the category or topic number:
Category 116 will have copies of the complete documents on this people group.
Categories 121+ will have excerpts from these documents arranged by cultural topic.
Paragraphs and pages from the original documents are cut and pasted
and arranged by these category numbers–The numbers for the categories
of cultural topics can be found in the Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM).

How to research a specific topic:

1.  Look up the term for the topic in the index to the Outline of Cultural Materials (OCM)
Location: Microfiche Cabinet 17, Drawer 6-8 HRAF OCM
Note the category definition of the topic in the text of the OCM.  Make sure this
is the type of information you want to study.

2.  To identify which cultures in HRAF exhibit your topic, check the topic’s category number
in the Index to the Human Relations Area Files (Location:  MicroRef GN 25 I54).
Under each category number, the letter/number codes of the ethnic groups are
listed with source and author information.  The more sources listed, the more
prominent the topic is in the group’s culture.

3.  Look in Microfiche Cabinet 17, Drawers 6-8.  Locate the ethnic group by letter/number.
Find the topic/category number on the upper left corner of the fiche.
Put the fiche in the reader and find the excerpts from the documents that pertain to
your topic.

Note:  When you are compiling your bibliography, you may refer to Category 111 in each
ethnic group.  This category contains full bibliographic references for all of the
documents in the microfiche.


Nature and Use of the HRAF files. (Microfiche Cabinet 17, Drawer 6-8 HRAF guide)

HRAF Source Bibliography.  (Micro Ref GN 25 H73 1976)
Contains full bibliographic information for all books, articles, and manuscripts cited
throughout the HRAF files.  Entries are arranged in alpha-numeric sequence by OWC code.
Each entry indicates year of inclusion in the HRAF files.  Sources that were not included
in their entirety are annotated with an (I).  An (M) indicates that the source is included in
the HRAF microfiles.  The bibliography is indexed alphabetically by author, by area, and
by cultural unit.  The complete, full text of the publications annotated with an (M) are
included as OCM category 116 and are available in the appropriate file.

Index to the Human Relations Area Files.  (MicroRef GN 25 I54)
A subject index to the HRAF collection, organized by OCM category code.  The index
is most useful for determining the coverage of a subject in a  file without going directly
to the files themselves.

Yale University eHRAF User Guide available at http://www.yale.edu/hraf/userguides.html.

For more information about this subject in our Library Catalog, check out these
Subject Categories:




Time Period: 12th Century   13th Century   14th Century   15th Century   16th Century   17th Century   18th Century   19th Century   20th Century  

Subject keywords: Anthropology