Wow! That's some story about driving the bootleg trucks during the strike.
As for finding out family names, generally birth and death certificates provide a wealth of information, but I would warn you that the wait times and privacy regulations vary from state to state. New Jersey, for instance, needed a copy of a photo ID and proof of my relationship to the person in question, and the wait time for documents consisted of weeks, indeed months. The wheels turn a little faster in Pennsylvania, as I recall, but they still have restrictions.