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# Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Investigating an Ancestor's Presidential Award
Posted by Diane

Q. My grandfather, a lawyer, received a Certificate of Appreciation from President Roosevelt on April 15, 1943, "in grateful recognition of patriotic services rendered in aiding in the administration of the Selective Training and Service Act." The governor of Maryland also signed it.

I'd like to find out what he did to earn this certificate. I can't find anything in Maryland state archive searches. (This question is from the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum.)

A. The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 required American men aged 21 to 35 to register beginning in 1940. Those whose names were drawn had to serve 12 months.

In 1941, Congress approved by one vote the President's request to extend the term of service. After the United States entered World War II, a new act made men age 18 to 45 liable for military service; those up to age 65 had to register.

There are any number of ways your grandfather could've participated in administering this legislation, so first dig through attics and closets and quiz relatives for clues that may give you a starting point. Then take these steps:
  • Was he a lawyer for the government or for a firm? If the latter, perhaps his involvement was through his employer. A relative might remember the name, or you could check a city directory.
If he was a government employee, his records would be at the National Personnel Records Center (part of the National Archives and Records Administration) in St. Louis. Records may be restricted for privacy reasons; instructions for making a request are online.
  • If he was prominent enough to get an award from the president, maybe he made the news. Search newspaper databases such as Google's News Archive, the subscription site GenealogyBank, or NewsBank, available through many libraries.
  • Reading a history of the Selective Service System may offer clues to your grandfather’s participation or even mention him.
  • Selective Service System records are in the National Archives' Record Group 147, which includes correspondence, official appointments, conscientious objector case files and more. The mostly paper records, some of which involve state draft boards, are distributed among various National Archives locations. Start with the administrative records at the archives' Washington, DC, and College Park, MD, locations.
These records aren’t indexed, so study a finding aid (the archives recommends two) and enlist the help of an archivist.
You also can hire a researcher; the archives has posted a list of recommended researchers by topic.
You can use the Archival Research Catalog People Search to see if your grandfather’s name appears in any National Archives catalog descriptions. (Note that even if he’s not in the People Search, the records still may mention him.)


occupational records | US roots
Wednesday, December 03, 2008 9:49:46 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Thursday, November 20, 2008
Researching a Merchant Mariner's Overseas Death
Posted by Diane

Q. Is there a central repository where the death of a merchant seamen who died abroad would be recorded? My ancestor is rumored to have died in Peru, possibly between 1875 and 1890. (This question comes from the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum.)

A. The merchant marine is a civilian auxiliary of the US Navy. Mariners transport cargo and passengers during peacetime; but during war, they may be called upon to deliver troops and supplies.

Until 1985, merchant mariners (also called merchant seamen) weren’t eligible for veteran’s benefits, even if they were killed participating in military action.

First, learn more about your ancestor’s service by requesting a search of Merchant Marine records from the National Personnel Records Center (part of the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA). In the April 2006 Family Tree Magazine, professional genealogist Emily Anne Croom advises readers to provide the mariner’s full name, birth date and approximate employment dates.

You also can find some merchant crew lists on microfilm at NARA and at the Family History Library, or FHL (run a keyword search of the FHL's online catalog on merchant crew list).

You can rent relevant film through a local Family History Center (See a directory of locations on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.) Crew lists arranged by port, so it’ll be helpful if you know the ports your ancestor sailed into.

These records should tell you about your ancestor’s employment and give you an idea of whether he in fact died while serving as a mariner.

NARA also has seamen’s protection certificates, identification issued to seamen to protect them from being impressed into service by the British.

As far as civilian deaths abroad, US consular officers have been charged with reporting to the Department of State deaths of US citizens in their districts. NARA has an online listing of its resources for overseas death reports.

For deaths from 1870 to 1906, consult Registers of Consular Despatches. It comprises 14 volumes on rolls 19 through 32 of NARA microfilm M17, Registers of Correspondence of the Department of State, 1870-1906.

The FHL has copies of many films from this series, titled by place. To find them, run a keyword search of the online catalog on registers of consular despatches.


birth/death records | occupational records
Thursday, November 20, 2008 1:37:55 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]
# Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Finding Ancestors in the Civilian Conservation Corps
Posted by Diane

Q. My relative worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. Where can I find more information about his time there?

A. This question was inspired by a post in our Forum.

The CCC—which happens to be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year—was established March 21, 1933, as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation. By the time the CCC disbanded in 1942, when Congress ceased its funding, more than 2.5 million workers had participated.

It was a multi-agency effort, with the Army running CCC camps and various federal agencies sponsoring them.

Over 4,500 camps were established in all states. African-Americans were segregated in “colored” camps. Each enrollee earned at least $30 per month, and had to send $25 of it home to family.

It’ll help your search if you know your ancestor’s camp and the dates he worked, so ask your family members and pore over your research for clues.

The Colorado state archives has a statewide CCC enrollment index, which gives the enrollee’s name, county, birth date and camp.

Employment records of CCC workers are in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. You can fill out a research request following these instructions. Provide as much information as possible, and send either a written OK from the person in the record or proof of the person's death.

Most administrative and other records—project reports, correspondence, the CCC’s Happy Days weekly newspaper, publicity materials, meeting minutes, photographs, accident and death reports—are part of Record Group 35 at NARA’s College Park, MD, facility.

Records of the separate Indian Division of the CCC are with Bureau of Indian Affairs records in NARA’s Seattle and Denver regional facilities.

The CCC records aren’t indexed and few are microfilmed, so you’d need to travel to NARA or hire a researcher there to use them. The finding aid Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Civilian Conservation Corps by Douglas Helms should help.

Some of the camps had newspapers, you can learn their titles using the Center for Research Libraries online search.

Learn more about the CCC on these sites:


occupational records | US roots
Wednesday, October 22, 2008 8:38:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #  Comments [3]
# Monday, February 25, 2008
Research Canadian Pacific Railway Workers
Posted by Diane

Q. My great-grandfather supposedly helped build the Canadian Pacific Railway. Is there any way to find out more about that part of his life?

A. Canada was still a sparsely populated country when the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) incorporated in 1881. Building that first cross-country rail link took thousands of workers and a massive effort.

In 1885, CPR worker Donald A. Smith altered the course of the country’s history by driving the final spike into the transcontinental railroad, which ultimately opened up the Canadian West to settlement. You can read a brief history on the CPR archives Web site.

If your ancestor worked on the railroad, you’ll be especially interested in the archives’ collection of historical images, documents, publications and artifacts, plus materials on topics such as tourism, immigration and colonization.

Although it’s a private collection, the CPR archives in Montreal provides researchers with fee-based services or on-site access on a case-by-case basis. You’ll need to submit a written request to arrange a visit.

You’ll find more online resources for researching rail workers at RootsWeb and Cyndi’s List.

Canadian Railway Records: A Guide for Genealogists by Althea Douglas and J. Creighton Douglas (Ontario Genealogical Society, $26) offers a glossary, chronology, and an introduction to online sources. See more history in Canadian Pacific Railway (MBI Railroad Color History) by Tom Murray (Voyageur Press, $36.95).
Lisa A. Alzo


international research | occupational records
Monday, February 25, 2008 8:47:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [0]