Overheard in GenForum: R.R./Ore Digger Question, Oh/Mo 1850-1900
Because of the impact the railroads had on this country, and the number of individuals who ended up working for them, they affect the research of a large number of genealogists. Unfortunately, few genealogists think to use them or understand their value.
Railroad Retirement Board
The Railroad Retirement Board does not include records for everyone who ever worked for the railroads. While this may not seem like good news, there may be other ways to find information on your ancestors if the Retirement Board does not have records on your ancestor or your ancestors services do not fit their requirements. However, first a look at the records that are housed at the Railroad Retirement Board and for whom they have these records.
There are nine different types of records you are most likely to find through the Railroad Retirement Board. Many of these records will have duplicated information. However, don't discount the information, as there are times when answers to the same question found on different forms will have differences in the completeness of the answer.
The different records include:
In order to access these records, you will need to contact the Railroad Retirement Board directly. Keep in mind that they do not have records for everyone. Only those who were employed for over ten years and were employed at the time the Railroad Retirement Board was created, in 1934, will be found in the Board's records.
The Rail Companies will often have more records, and for a much longer time period. The Railroad Retirement Board is limited to those who were working for the railroad no further back than the 1930s. However, in your case, the records you are in need of are probably going to be found within the local railway companies. In fact many of these railway company records can date back into the 1800s. Some of the records you are likely to find through the local companies include:
Of course the trick is in finding these records.
Locating Local Railroads and Their Records
In your particular instance, you have not yet been able to determine the railway that your ancestor was likely to have worked for. One of the best ways to learn what railroad companies were in business in the counties where your ancestors were living is to turn to the land records.
The railroads were often buying from and selling to the local residents. They are named in the land records. That means a search of the grantor and grantee indexes will reveal which railroads were buying and selling.
Another resource that is helpful in determining what railroads were in the area and when they arrived would be county histories. These often detail the earliest settlers, the founding of the towns, and when various businesses arrived and grew. And the railroad was always a major event, as it was expected to bring prosperity to a community.
Once you have an idea of which railroad he worked for, you can then turn to the local societies and museums to see if their records have survived. And don't forget the state archives and historical society. They may also have information of use to you.
The same county histories that will help you in determining which railroad companies were local will also hold the keys to the type of mining your ancestors did. Be warned that not many of these county histories have been indexed. You may find yourself having to skim page-by-page until you find the town history in which your ancestors were living.The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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