October 30th, 2013

Records of the Civil Conservation Corps – A Treasure Trove of Depression Era Ancestors

After the stock market crash in 1929, several programs were initiated to help the country recover from the depression that followed. One such initiative was the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC), started in 1933. The corps was opened to young men of between 17 and 21 years of age, and eventually 45,000 CCC camps employing more than 500,000 men were established throughout the United States. These young men are credited with building bridges, tending to soil conservation, planting three billion trees, and many other essential tasks. In the camps they were assigned jobs and given lodging, and they were expected to send $25 to $30 of their monthly salary back home to their families.

Additionally the corpsmen restored historical structures, established and managed tree nurseries, built dams, stocked waterways with fish, and developed wildlife streams and trails. They built lodges, lookout towers, museums, fences, drinking fountains and wildlife shelters. They were an integral part of America’s infrastructure right up until the time the corps was abandoned at the outbreak of World War II, when funds were then directed towards the war effort. Many of the CCC’s young members went on to serve in the war.

Records from the Civil Conservation Corps abound, and clues to an ancestor’s involvement in the corps can be found in enrolment cards, obituaries, photographs, or family heirlooms. You may have to search the records of several camps to find information about your ancestor, but once located some of the records you will find are:

  • Enrolment Cards – Contain the name and address of the enrolee, camp’s name and address, date they began service, discharge date, and reason for discharge.
  • Narrative Reports
  • Correspondences – May contain letters to or from enrolees regarding their experiences in the corps.
  • Discharge Certificates – Contain date and place of birth, length of enrolment, age, occupation, eye color, hair color, complexion and height.
  • Manuals and Handbooks
  • Rosters
  • Station Lists – arranged by type of camp, camp location, and project information.
  • Photographs

Original camp records can be found at the Civilian Records Textual Archives at the National Archives, while a list of states and campsites within them can be browsed online at the Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni Website. Personnel files of the CCC are available by written request only at The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC). As when you are requesting any records, make sure you give the NPRC as much information as you can about your ancestor including; full name, date of birth, place of birth, era you are researching, and any other pertinent information. The more data you can supply, the greater your chances of finding your ancestor’s records. Happy ancestor hunting!