What are Railroad Records?


Railroad records are an invaluable source of genealogical information. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the railroads provided employment for hundreds of thousands of people. People worked in every area of the railroads, from construction of tracks and trains, to train operation, to administrative jobs in the railroad offices. Any community that was located near railroad tracks usually had large numbers of its population working for the railroad. The employment was steady, the pay was good, and there was room for promotion. A person could make an entire career out of working for the railroad, and even turn it into a family business by getting their children and grandchildren employed by it, and many did just that.
If you have ancestors who worked for the railroad (something you can easily discover in later census records beginning in 1880, when type of employment is listed), you need to look at railroad records. They can tell you a lot of possibly previously unknown information about your railroad working ancestor and their family. The railroad records are personnel records, and they can be anywhere from scanty to quite detailed in the information the provide. With so many people in America’s past who worked for the railroads, it is amazing that more people do not use these amazing and invaluable record sources to do their genealogy research. Railroad records really provide an intimate look into your ancestor’s working life, and give you an idea of what their actual life was like in a lot of ways. They are an excellent resource for bringing your ancestors to life on the page once more...