Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 3, Number 13 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 August 3, 2011
In the next few months, Mountain Press will be turning to our own files of W. P. A. Records to produce new materials for our researcher friends. Over twenty years ago, we purchased approximately 125 files of the original W.P.A. files from the estate of the former Tennessee State Supervisor for the project. Penelope Johnson Allen, a historian for the state and writer of many publications on history, was well known across the state. As the director of the Tennessee State W.P.A. project, she had access to many files of the records. Some of the records we purchased had gone through a fire when her house burned and others were spared. Many of the files had been typed and returned to the State Archives when the project ended in 1943. However, many of the remaining files have never been typed and were never returned to the Archives. We are going to get these into print in the next few months. To see a list of the ones we have published so far, please click here.
If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at email@example.com.
James L. Douthat
The W. P. A., or Works Project Administration, was a national program and helped to employ many workers to carry out public works projects. When the Great Depression hit in 1929 the economy of the nation collapsed and many Americans were put on the street with no home, no money, and no jobs. The United States Congress set aside $4.88 billion dollars from the emergency Relief Fund in an attempt to get the nation back on its feet. A number of projects were begun by building the infrastructure of the nation. Many schools, airports, seaports, and bridges where built. Things like Hoover Dam were constructed to put people to work and restore the nations’ economy.
In the field of the humanities, the arts and cultural aspect were not forgotten. Many of the Post Offices at the time had murals painted on their walls. Artists were employed to paint or write. Out of this portion of the money, people were hired to copy records and make them available to the general public. Several of the major projects in the field of genealogy of real interest were the gathering and cataloging of the various census taken through the years from 1790 to 1900 by this time. The soundex system for the 1880 census is one of the byproducts of this Works Progress Administration undertaking. Another of the projects was the cemetery catalogue.
Each state undertook with their allotted money, a wide variety of projects. Tennessee opted to employ people in each county to collect and record data of a genealogical nature. Some were sent to the courthouses to record many of the various books available. Others were sent into the cemeteries of the county to record the burials at that time. Still others were sent out to gather the various personal papers, Civil War letters, diaries, Bible records, and any other material that the families would allow them to make copies. To help with the employment situation, several people would be hired to copy the material, others hired to type the material and then there were always the supervisory personnel. In this manner, the effects of the Great Depression were beginning to diminish ever so slowly.
In the course of time, critics began to raise opposition to the various state projects. Some considered the arts to be a waste of time and thought the airports were not needed. We have to realize in the late 1930s air travel was not what it is today. Airports and airplanes were more of a toy still for the rich and famous. So when President Roosevelt signed the order to terminate the project on June 30, 1943, America was beginning to gear up for the production of war machinery since we were at war on two fronts, in the Pacific and in Europe.
Many of these records have stood the test of time, especially for the genealogist. Just look at the collection of Bible records. Since these were owned and kept by the individual families, many of them have disappeared and you have little or no access to them. Isn’t it wonderful that you at least have some of the records to examine? The same is true of the cemetery records. Many of the gravestones have been destroyed, broken or no longer readable. At the time the information was taken, we can get a reading of them. In many cases, the record keeper stated that there was just a “funeral home marker” and these have certainly disappeared through the years. Since many families could not afford a marker at the time, this is the only record of the grave.
We recognize that there are many errors in these records since most of those who gathered the information were not trained to read the old script, but they did the best they could. Even if 85% of the information is correct, at least we have a fairly good record of our history.
Good luck with your search!
Cheatham County, TN Bible and Tombstone Records
150 Pages, Full Name Index, TN-1333, $30.00
These Bible Records still remain, for the most part, in the hands of various families. In many of the cemeteries, the stones are broken or destroyed. If the marker was a funeral home plaque, they are now unreadable. These records are of great interest to the genealogist and historians.
Giles County, Tennessee Minute Book "C" 1816-1817
114 Pages, Full Name Index, TN-1334, $24.50
These records found in Minute Book C are the proceedings of a lower court that took such cases as “gaming, bastardy, deed transfers or petty larceny”.
McMinn County, Tennessee Marriage Book "D" 1848-1859
88 Pages, Full Name Index, TN-1317, $18.50
These marriage records cover a larger area then just the present county as other counties were created later from the territory.
If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.