Friday, February 1, 2013

Did your ancestor serve in the Civilian Conservation Corps?

Men old enough to have served in World War II, may also have served in the Great Depression-era Emergency Conservation Work program, better known as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). My Dad, Ralph E. Poore, was one of them.

Every state and most communities contain parks or other projects constructed by young men who served in the CCC.

One of President Roosevelt’s New Deal projects, the CCC began in 1933 and ended with the beginning of World War II. Under the program, CCC recruits planted trees, pruned and harvested trees in state, municipal, and private forests. These young men built recreation areas and beautified picnic, camp, and park grounds. The young men also constructed shelter belts, fire lanes, trails and rural roads.

More than 3 million young men joined the CCC and their records are available to genealogy researchers. You can gather a wealth of details about your ancestor’s life from his CCC file in the National Archives.

Ralph Poore at about the time he served in the CCCs.
I learned from my Dad’s records, for example, that he lied to the Mississippi welfare agent who interviewed him as a prospective recruit for the CCC program. My Dad, not yet 17 at the time and living with his parents north of Laurel, Miss., told the relief agent that he was almost 19.

The program accepted only young men between the ages of 18 and 28. My Dad may have lied because his parents and siblings needed the money he could earn—$30 a month, $25 of which was sent home. Recruits retained the other $5 a month for personal expenses.

Or perhaps the recruiter, taking pity on the Poore family, simply entered the higher age himself, because my Dad, at 5-foot, 7 ¼-inch, 111-pounds, certainly didn’t look nearly 19. His application also indicated that he hadn’t participated in activities such as the Red Cross, Boy Scouts or 4-H Club, activities that the recruiters usually looked for in the youth they offered applications.

My Dad didn’t serve in any of the CCC companies in Jones County where he lived. CCC officials sent him, like many other young men, to a camp in another county. He first went to a camp at New Augusta, and later to one near Citronelle, Ala.

You, too, can discover these kinds of details and more in your ancestor’s records.

In your CCC research, start by writing the National Archives and Records Administration, National Personnel Records Center, Civilian Personnel Records, 111 Winnebago Street, St. Louis, MO 63118.

In your letter, explain that you are interested in getting copies of the records of service with the CCC for your ancestor. Provide his name, Social Security Number, and birth and death dates. Also list the Federal Employing Agency, in this case, the CCC.

If you know it, include the CCC’s company number and the federal or state agency the camp was assigned to. Initials, such as “F” for Forest Service or “SP” for State Parks, designated the agencies. If you know the time period your ancestor served, include that as well.

You also need to provide proof of death. A photocopy of a death certificate will do.

You can expect to receive your ancestor’s Application for Enrollment that lists a home address, place and date of birth, education, community activities, last job held, work experience, Record of Service in the Civilian Conservation Corps, CCC work record, health exam, and discharge information. In my Dad’s case, these records showed that he had served in more than one CCC camp, which I hadn’t known before.

You can request a search for photographs by e-mail at Provide the same information as in your request for records. Be sure to include your mailing address because a report of the results of the search, which takes two to four weeks, is by regular mail.

You can find out about life at your ancestor’s camp, although not necessarily specific information about your ancestor, by requesting the CCC camp inspection records for your ancestor’s particular camp. To get these records, write to the National Archives at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001. Provide the same information on your ancestor as in the other record requests.

What you will receive from the National Archives are forms for ordering copies of the files they find. These forms include a brief description of what is in the files, the number of pages and an estimate of the cost of copies. You pay the estimate, but you are billed for the difference if the cost is greater.

A word of warning—these estimates are notoriously bad. In my case I received an estimated total of $25. The final bill totaled about twice that.

These inspection reports include camp commanders’ reports of the activities of the young men, including work and recreation. Of particular interest to me were the mess hall’s daily menus that told me my Dad got hearty meals three times a day. I also learned that the camp inspector found bed bugs in the bunks and ordered them cleaned.

To learn more about the history of the CCC program, an excellent Internet source is the online publication by John C. Paige, The Civilian Conservation Corps and theNational Park Service, 1933-1942: An Administrative History, National Park Service, Department of the Interior, 1985.

Other Internet resources you should check include:


  1. You supply such complete and careful information about how to get these records! All this makes me wonder if I had any relatives that served in the CCC. When money ran short in the 1920s, my uncles went to farm in Ohio (from South Carolina), but by the time of the CCC one of them, and his whole family, was busy trying to farm in exile--he began exactly in 1933.

    But there's the other side of the family. I'll try. I imagine the South could have used the CCC right after the Civil War, when so many were ruined.

  2. I was lucky in that my Dad talked about being in the CCCs and he had an annual from one year with pictures of him in it.

    Many people find out that their ancestor served only because they run across some small artifact such as a CCC pin or some other small item.