Civilian Conservation Corps
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This article originally appeared in "Business, Institution, and Organization Records" by Kay Haviland Freilich, CG, CGL, and Ann Carter Fleming, CG, CGL in The Source: A Guidebook to American Genealogy
“There is hereby established the Civilian Conservation Corps, hereinafter called the Corps, for the purpose of providing employment, as well as vocational training, for youthful citizens of the United States who are unemployed and in need of employment, and to a limited extent as hereinafter set out, for war veterans and Indians, through the performance of development of the natural resources of the United States, its territorial and insular possessions: PROVIDED, That at least ten hours each week may be devoted to general education and vocation training: . . .”58
The Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, was one of several programs designed to help the country recover from the economic depression that followed the 1929 stock market crash. The CCC started in 1933 and was open to young men age seventeen to twenty-one years of age. Over 4,500 CCC camps were established throughout the United States, employing more than a half million men. Corpsman are credited for planting three billion trees, building bridges, tending to soil conservation, and many other well-needed tasks. Men were sent to camps, often far from home, where they were assigned jobs and lodging. They were expected to send $25 of the $30 monthly salary home to their family.
Corpsmen restored historical structures, developed state parks, established and maintained tree nurseries, built dams, developed wildlife streams and trails, improved beaches, and stocked waterways with fish. They built drinking fountains, fences, lodges, lookout towers, museums, and wildlife shelters. The CCC came to an end when the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II. Funding was then directed to the war efforts. Many of the same young men went on to serve in the war.
More than likely the genealogist consulting CCC records has already found some clue that indicates participation in the program. Clues can include an original enrollment card, information from an obituary, photographs, or a family tradition. It might be necessary to research several camps before discovering the sought-after ancestor.
A variety of records survive from the camps:
- Enrollment Cards, which supply the name and address of the enrollee, their designated allottee’s name and address, date service began, camp assignment, discharge date, and reason for discharge.
- Applications and discharge notifications, which may contain related correspondence.
- Narrative reports.
- Discharge certificates.
- Manuals and handbooks documenting enrollment policies, rules, and procedures.
- Correspondence, including letters to and from enrollees about camp experiences.
- Rosters indicating those enrolled at a given camp on a given date.
- Station lists, arranged by type of camp, which include camp locations and project information.
- Photographs documenting both projects and camp life.
Original CCC camp records are available at the Civilian Records Textual Archives at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. A list of states and campsites within each state can be found on the website for the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni (NACCCA). The national headquarters for the NACCCA is located at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri. Formed in 1977, it currently has more than sixty chapters nationwide.
Camp personnel files are available by written request only at the NARA Civilian Personnel Records Center. Further information is available at the NACCCA headquarters and museum at
- National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni (NACCCA)
- 16 Hancock
- P.O. Box 16429
- St. Louis, MO 63125-0429
This museum houses many artifacts donated by former CCC alumni and their families, such as camp rosters, copies of enlistment and discharge papers, and camp photos, identified by the company number, which document the camp life. The museum also has handbooks, manuals, menus, and other assorted original documents from the camps as well as original copies of the Happy Days weekly newspaper, which are also on microfilm. Alumni and descendants may contact the museum for further information and copies of available documents for a nominal fee.
The company number and name are the key factors to unlock the museum resources. If that information is unknown, write to the National Archives Civilian Personnel Record Center to obtain a copy of the discharge paper for your ancestor. Request all documents that are in the personnel file, not just the discharge paper. This file should include a record of service, a payment record, medical documents, and an enlistment document. An application form and instructions are available at http://www.nara.gov.
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