All Aboard! U.S. Railroad Records & Resources

NOTE: We are voyaging again, so Friday’s Family History Finds is on hiatus for a short time.

Every so often, I am asked about locating railroad records. I have to admit I haven’t been successful at finding records relating to any one particular person (including my great grandfather, who worked as a conductor on a railroad in the early 1900s), but, as with other genealogical resources, more and more records are becoming easily accessible.

If you have an ancestor or more recent family member who worked for any of the U.S. railroads, here are some good resources to browse.

Ancestry Wiki – gives some basic information about railroad records

B & O Railroad Museum

California State Railroad Museum- has employment records for the Southern Pacific Railroad, plus historical information with an online catalog search.

Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society

Chicago History Museum – Find records for the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. There is also an online searchable catalog of its holdings.

Cornell University – Guide to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Records, 1883-1969. Collection contains reports, pamphlets and correspondence. Also the Catherwood Library railroad related holdings.

FamilySearch – has an informational page with tips on finding railroad records

Genealogy Today – has a searchable collection of many railroad records, but a subscription is required to view them. Time span is mid 19th century to early 20th century.

Illinois Central Railroad Records

Kansas Historical Society

Midwest Genealogy Center – 1.5 million national railroad pension record index searchable online

Minnesota Historical Society – maintains some records from the Burlington Northern, Northern Pacific, and Great Northern railroad companies. There is a detailed section on the society’s overall holdings.

Missouri Pacific Historical Society – no employee records, but lots of history

National Archives at Atlanta – Note that there were no railroad pensions before 1936. There is a fee to order copies of any records found. There is also an article in NARA’s journal, Prologue, on railroad history and the archives collection.

Newberry Library Railroad Archives

Pennsylvania and Historical Museum Commission – railroad employees

RailRoad Genealogical Society

Researching Records of Old Railroads and Railway Records

San Diego Historical Society – has records for the San Diego and Arizona Railroad Company. The Research Library page has links to its collections.

U.S. Department of Transportation – online database of Investigations of Railroad Accidents 1911-1993

U.S. Railroad Retirement Board – Note that there were no railroad pensions before 1936.

Virginia Tech – Manuscript Sources for Railroad History

Washington State Historical Society – has records for the Northern Pacific Beneficial Association hospital records, 1905-1930, with a finding aid.


One thought on “All Aboard! U.S. Railroad Records & Resources”

  1. RootsTech 2018 Contest Entry. You have given us such a great list. I also have found “THE DIRECTORY OF NORTH AMERICAN RAILROADS, ASSOCIATIONS, SOCIETIES, ARCHIVES, LIBRARIES, MUSEUMS AND THEIR COLLECTIONS.” by Holly T. Hansen to be very helpful.

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