Unusual sources: The Folklore Project at LOC.GOV

Now and then,  I like to point out unusual genealogy information sources, such as land records, probate court, and so on. The American Memory Project at the Library of Congress is one of the sites that can give you what I call “collateral information”. (That’s not a true genealogy technical term, that’s just me!)

By that I mean, learning about times and places and the forces driving history that might have affected your ancestors. By learning about the world they lived in, sometimes you can figure out where to look next. One such collateral information source is at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/wpaintro/wpahome.html, The WPA snapshot of America at a certain point in time. As the site says:

 Life histories were compiled and transcribed by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers' Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936-1940. The Library of Congress collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of over 300 writers from 24 states. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents consist of drafts and revisions, varying in form from narrative to dialogue to report to case history. The histories describe the informant's family education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores, medical needs, diet and miscellaneous observations. Pseudonyms are often substituted for individuals and places named in the narrative texts.

Because of that last sentence, sometimes this information, while accurate as far as memory can be, won’t give you the people  and sometimes not the specific places you need. It will, however, give you some facts to go by, and a very good feeling for life in the early 20th and late 19th century.  That may lead you to records sources (say, the American Battlefield Protection Program) you may not have considered before.


This is my last entry for this week, as I’ll be out of town. You could use the time you would normally spend reading my musings to take the time to check your voter registration record with your local elections office. For many states, this week is the deadline to be registered and to be certain that your data in the system is accurate!

About Libbi

Writer for 30 years. Genealogy a hobby for about 40 years. Yes, I'm in my 50's, I learned about genealogy at my mother's knee!
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