Did you know that the 1940 United States Census can tell you if a person was employed in emergency work, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Works Progress Administration (WPA), or the National Youth Administration (NYA)?
The 1940 census was the first census taken as the United States was coming out of the depression era. Many people were still suffering from the stock market crash of 1929. The agricultural industry was suffering from a drought. Unemployment was high, families were hurting.
Emergency relief agencies were created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to help the unemployed as part of the New Deal. Roosevelt wanted to "put people to work." Three agencies were formed.
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was the first agency formed. Young, single men, ages 18 to 23, submitted applications through their local welfare offices. Veterans were encouraged to apply through the Veteran's Administration regional office. Any veteran could apply regardless of age or marital status. Selected men had to be in good physical condition and records are available to attest to this at the National Archives in St. Louis. Men worked forty hour weeks, five days a week. The men received $30, assistant leaders $36, and leaders $45 per month. A portion of their pay was sent home. The work the men performed varied depending on location. Some of the projects the men were involved in were reforestation, soil conservation, fish and wildlife aid, construction of recreational areas, emergency rescue, erecting telephone lines, constructing dams, and providing assistance to those affected by floods, blizzards, hurricanes, and forest fires.
The CCC newspapers are available online. A list can be found at the Ancestor Hunt blog. The National Archives has a guide for "Records of the Civilian Conservation Corps" that includes the record group numbers needed for research.
A United States map with CCC camp numbers per state is available. It gives information on the number of men enrolled and where the camp is located. For example, Michigan had 11,800 men at 59 camps. 14 camps were on National Forests, 42 on State Forests, and 3 on State Parks.
National Youth Association was created for the youth of America. It was operated under the management of the Works Progress Administration. High school and college age students were part time employees. Employment opportunites included working in cancer research; flood control studies; agricultural experimentation; refurbishing furniture; health care; construction of recreational facilities; automotive repair; building maintenance; landscaping of public grounds; library services; forestry and soil work; and national defense and industry training (e.g., aviation mechanics)4
Now that you know what the emergency relief programs did, you can check the 1940 United States Census to see if any relatives worked for one. Two questions relating to employment status were asked on this census about emergency work. They were both to be asked of those fourteen and older:
- Was this person AT WORK for pay or profit in private or nonemergency Gov't. work during week of March 24-30? (Yes or No).
- If not, was he at work on, or assigned to, public EMERGENCY WORK (WPA, NYA, CCC, etc.) during week of March 24-30? (Yes or No). (1940 Census Questions)