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Employment All Aboard! Using Railroad Employee Magazines for Your Research Ed Storey shows how you can add valuable context to your ancestor's life PART OF WHAT MAKES GENEALOGY interesting is going beyond birth and death records to understand how people lived and worked. Sometimes employment details can be tough to find. If your ancestor worked for a railroad, how- ever, there could be useful information in employee maga- zines. In addition to covering safety and changes to the rail- road, the magazines were pub- lished to help create a family spirit among employees by providing information on their Repairing locomotives, Pennsylania R.R. shops, Altoona, Pa. Engine hoisted for replacing wheels. Created by Underwood & Underwood, c. 1903. (Courtesy Library of Congress) 36 Family Chronicle + November/December 2012 lives and careers. The company wanted loyalty, good relations among employees, and min- imal turnover, At one time, railroads were the largest companies in North America. Between the US and Canada, there were almost 2 million employees at the end of World War One. Many compa- nies would send each employee a magazine of 100 pages or more every month. Fortunately, many of these are still available. The magazines are not indexed, and any given issue might include less than one percent of the employees Still, there could be details not found elsewhere. You might find, for example, a photo of the department where someone worked, thus pro- viding insight into friends and co-workers. Here, we will go through the steps to maximize the chances of finding a relative. The process is not difficult. Even if you do not find much about a specific ancestor, you can gain a good understanding of their work life. Gathering Clues We will need to start with the name of the railroad that was the ancestor's employer. Ask older relatives or look at old family records. There might be an engraved pocket watch, or some passes kept by someone who is still living. Another approach is to look through older maps of where the ancestor lived. Many commu- nities would have only one or two nearby railroads. Keep in mind that there was a lot of consolidation in the industry since WW2. It is necessary to find the actual name of the rail- road when the employee worked there. Also, gather any clues you can about the type of work and locations, as these can help you later on. Next, select a time frame of interest. Many workers were gone by age 65. New hires might be as young as 18, but they were unlikely to be men- tioned until later in their careers. Since retirement notices were often included in the magazines, it might be best to start with the year he turned 66 and go back from there. Keep in mind that it was not uncommon to change employers. The need to be [RAILROAD Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific _ Pere Marquette Baltimore & Ohio Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Missouri Souther Pacific as & Texas as & Texas | is Union Pacific closer to the family, or the prospect of more money, was a motivator for change. Railroads were affected by changing traffic volumes, requiring changes in employment. Stoke the “Cat’! WorldCat, the online library catalog,, is a great place to start. It isn’t nec~ essary to enter anything more than “Railroad Employee Mag- azine” in the search box. There will be lots of returns for many different railroads, including US and Canadian railroads, and those overseas as well, so look at the details carefully. You could add more keywords, but the magazine might have had a name other than that of the RR There are several routes that apply to WorldCat entries: * Some entries will have a link labeled: View all entries & for- ‘mats, Click on this and see where it takes you. There might be online access. * There will be libraries listed. You can contact any of these, YEAR(s)__ 1916, 1917 1915 & 1921 1920 Sree STS | 1910, 1916, 1922 1947 1918 1893 com as well as inquire about requesting the magazine through interlibrary loan. * There could also be historical societies listed. You can con- tact these and ask about years and availability. Note the name of the peri- odical, and go to Google Books. Here, [enter the name of the railroad, the periodical (if dif- ferent), and the words employee magazine. An entry here might provide online access. I like to download the copy in PDF, as it allows me to store the docu- ment on my computer for later access. There are often publica- tions of various railroad employee unions listed as well. Thave found much less infor- mation on individuals listed here. It is my experience that the results in Google Books are not ordered the way I would like them, so it is wise to read down through several pages. Railway Historical Societies It could be worthwhile to check your local library, either via the catalog or by asking at ENT | Entries 128 pages long Called Bulletin | Examples of railroad employee magazines found on Google Books. Many of these are download- able to your computer for review. Note that a single entry may contain several months of issues. This is not a complete list. Family Cheonicle + November/December 2012 37 Employment the local history section. Also, one of several organizations for railroad enthusiasts in the USA is the National Railway Historical Society, In Canada, check out the Canadian Railway Historical Association at Some chapters have a library that could contain magazines or publications of interest. Even if they do not have a collection, they might be able to recom- mend someone who does Check the website, follow it to the right state, or province, and send an email with your request. Some towns also have a town historian who might know someone with a maga- zine collection. I have not found these locations listed in WorldCat. Finally, there may be local history societies that have mag- azines. Some are noted in Worldcat, but probably not all. They will also require direct contact, and will often require a visit. You could be rewarded with a large stack of issues to peruse. A small donation to help with their expenses would be appreciated. Make a List Next, I make a list of what I am looking for. Any stories or events I have heard are prime candidates. I write down. years, towns or whatever I might have heard. Towns in census records or vital records are good starting points. 1 then go to an online map pro- gram and figure out what is nearby. Railroad employees often traveled, either as oper- ating crews, or as right of way construction and maintenance. Also, any family stories about what the ancestor might have done while working for the railroad should be recorded. These are finding aids to help decide what to read first Finally, I try to go through as many issues as I'can; looking for articles or photo captions related to my list. No doubt, there will be articles about history, politics, how to reduce costs and new equip- ment. These might be inter- esting, but they are not related to ancestors, so I tend to skip them. ‘The magazines were intended to be read cover to cover by the workers. There is often only a minimal table of contents, and I have not seen an index. They are much like a newspaper in this regard. Here are two examples from different years and rail- roads, The Santa Fe is a large carrier from Chicago to the west coast. In the December 1910 issue, from Google, I found almost 700 people men- tioned. They were primarily in photos, work assignments, family stories and awards. ‘The Buffalo Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway operated only in New York and Penn- sylvania. There were about 190 people mentioned in the August 1915 issue. They had a little more emphasis on department organization and photos of workers, but also had family stories and awards. Over a one-year period, these two publications would likely have mentioned about 10,000 people. Thus, you can see that there is a potential to find quite a few people featured in the maga- zines. There are more than 20 railroads that had regular magazines. RAILROAD ONE YEAR TYPICAL SOURCE | “Hiinis Central 15{7 nese Unio MEsoUniE I Baltimore & Ohio 1920 Wisconsin Historical S Missouri Pacific Lines Unclear Kansas City Public Library Southern Railway Syst 1947 Mississippi State Library | Boston & Maine Railroad 1928 The College at Brockport le Louisville & Nashville 1925 Indiana Historical Society | |--issouri Kansas Texas Rairoad Unclear University of Michigan | Reading Raiiroad 1920 St Louis Public Library Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific 1923 Wisconsin Historical society | ‘Canadian National se ao 1997 Library of Congress | Baltimor Unclear | Indiana State Library | New Yor Iie New York State Library [Central of Georaia Raiiwa 1930 University of Georgia | [Chicago Rock Island & Pacific 1918 University of lowa Library | Typical responses when "Railroad Employee Magazine” was used as the search criteria. Each entry might include seo- 38 Fanily Conse» Novenbar/Dezenbor 2072 eral individual issues. ‘Types of Work Railroads provided many dif- ferent types of work, In addi- tion to the obvious train. operating crews, there were station agents, telegraph opera- tors, switch operators, bridge & building crews, maintenance- of-way crews, and signal main- tainers. These people might be distributed along the right-of- way, with small buildings for equipment storage. They needed to be close to the line, in case a problem required quick attention. Even though many people would be located in division headquarters, every small town with a depot prob ably had at least a few employees. Men would walk the track every day to look for problems. Worth a Thousand Words Photos are generally small, but they can provide clues about co-workers, along with details as to what the employee actu- ally did on the job. The back- ground might be a bridge or a Above: Obituaries are often detailed and res- pectful. Not all contain photos as good as this. ch ia AE “Veer ag ie MR, ANTHONY SALINSKY, General Foreman Mr. Satinsgy was horn at Spring, ¥. Sept. 13h, 1876, ann entered the service Ruffalo, Rochester & Wiesbungh Rasa’ C as Section Laborer, in Febrise, 19 ie of 17. Th ING, he was promoted fistant Foreman, and the flowing year {a Seetion Foreman, Hit service has te vos and since March, HKG, he has hat Tineky i thomvagh and loyal B. R. & P. rowing ip ftom a young mia in the and se willing to go where He ean est_xerve interests of the Company. At different 1 he fas acted as Tie Inspector for this Comp in various states of the South a Middle West andaltn on sad adjacent vay corspuny’s own Hie Tn ‘General Pore and at the prscnt tse is employed in that mn the Erie Divisin, with hea reat Beal tice Weel y i respect i (es opinions, ad try to see es one ca be right and sincere Jet think iam exactly peste uy to or i aicersiy of ith anily in foe and serece. Ther fi bea joy aad frambess of communion tv people shen they are not ling each alr the alles liberty af Fedeen eG Many magazines highlight excellent employees, as an example to others. It is likely there will be work details not found elsewhere. building, It is not uncommon to see equipment or work loca- tions. These photos were mostly likely shot by profes- sional photographers. One benefit of such articles is that they are contemporary to the events listed. Thus, they do not rely on fading memo- Seo SEV RASSE Sees | Top: Some mag- ce azines regularly listed short pieces sctinars | about employees. on" The goal was to help people get to senrestes | know each other. Right: A typical marriage announcement. ries. The editors had a reputa- tion for upholding the quality of the publication. Since they wanted to promote a sense of harmony among employees, there would not be unkind or unverified information pub- lished. They might highlight the musical ability of a con- ductor’s daughter, or a station agent's effort to help a con- fused passenger, but I have seen nothing, about divorces or financial problems of the workers. End of the Line If they worked for a railroad, here is another avenue to learn about your ancestors. Your research is not likely to be com- pleted in an afternoon, but there is a potential for gaining insight into your ancestors’ |__ lives that would not otherwise | be found. Ed Storey is a regular contrib utor to Family Chronicle. Family Chronicle * November /Decembor 2012 39