My old man worked in avionics for 30+ years and taught me nearly everything I know about radios, like how a superheterodyne receiver works, how the ionosphere refracts signals, etc. He grew up only a half hour away from the ARRL headquarters, and I'm very curious if he ever had a license.

  1. How far back does the online FCC license database go?
  2. If I'd like to go further back than that, how would I do that research? Would that be an FOIA request?
  • $\begingroup$ Some time ago I found old Callbooks online, and I used them to find out who the previous holder of W0BTU was. Perhaps they are also searchable by name. Google is your friend. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ I know ULS only goes back so far -- I remember the notice they sent me when it was born. But on a cursory search I couldn't find the specific date. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ The ARRL might also be able to help you. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 20:48

2 Answers 2


The FCC online database doesn't offer old callsigns like that. Searching online might yield some hits


They're graphics and not easily searched.

  • $\begingroup$ They are graphics, but Google has OCRed a lot of printed material --notably old newspapers-- and made them searchable. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ A few years ago anyway, W3HF (IIRC) used to provide some kind of look-up service. I suppose he had many old callbooks. I don't think he's around anymore. I wonder where the callbooks have ended up... landfill? $\endgroup$
    – mike65535
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 20:45
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    $\begingroup$ If you need to prove a previous license, some VEs accept a callbook listing. If you send me the year and call, i may have a listing. I don't have a lot, but I'll look for you. $\endgroup$
    – cmm
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 2:49
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    $\begingroup$ I looked at the archive, and it is nearly as useful as a real Callbook. I verified that my parents were licensed in 1966, and that I wasn't. $\endgroup$
    – cmm
    Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ @cmm This seems to answer the question "If I'd like to go further back than that, how would I do that research?". I suggest that you post an answer including links to that archive, so that you can get credit for it and increase your rep here. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 2, 2018 at 22:43

To answer the second question: I looked up the reference I've copied from @mike65535, and it is as useful as a Callbook itself. I looked up my parents in the 1966 Callbook (k1uzg and k1uzk) and found their listing. I also looked up my original call (wa1jms) and found that I wasn't yet licensed.

The archive includes several years of the Callbook. Each contains scans of the original Callbook pages, organized like the Callbook: 0-land, 1-land, 2-land, etc, and then alphabetically by suffix.

The scan is at the lowest possible resolution and the scan is functional, although finding a call can be like pulling it out of a pileup. I accessed the archive with my cell phone and was helped by having a magnifier and squinting.

In an earlier comment I noted when I was retesting for my long-lapsed license, I needed to prove my previous license to avoid the code test. For the particular VE, a Callbook showing my call would have been sufficient proof. If I had this archive, I might have avoided taking a 5 wpm code test after 25 years of inactivity. Fortunately, the code was burned into my brain deeper than I thought, and 5 wpm is very slow.

I have just re-read my answer, and it isn't very helpful for your problem. You need to search by name, since you don't have your father's call. I focused on the wrong aspect of the question.

I would forget about the FCC database and concentrate on general "old-fashoned" Googling. Search for his name. If there are too many hits, add "radio", "amateur radio", or "ham radio". If you know his company, Google with that company name. Check if there is a radio club at the company -- many larger companies have clubs. Look for other hams in the area where he lived. The site shows all the currently licensed hams by area or zip code. Contact them and see if they know your old man. Maybe first contact the ones with old calls. You can use qrz.com to look up the local calls.

I wish you all the best finding information about him. Hams are a friendly lot with long memories. If he was a ham, you'll probably be able to find a thread to follow.


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