News and Tribune


April 25, 2014

FAMILY BRANCHES: Seeing the benefits of WPA

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — The Works Project Administration (WPA) began in 1935 and existed until 1943 with the goal to provide jobs to Americans to ease long term unemployment. The project ended with the beginning of WW II when unemployment dropped. The many projects were varied and included the arts, music, construction jobs, schools, bridges and many other useful community projects.

We benefit from many of these projects that still exist today. More familiar to genealogists is the work done which helps our research. Numerous records were indexed and include soundex for census, indexing of books, newspapers, and cemetery records. There are lesser known projects and a new DVD highlights oral histories and interviews with former African-American Slaves. “Generations – The WPA Ex-Slave Narrative Genealogical Resource Database, Volume I – Ex-Slaves with Virginia Origins” by Dr. James M. Rose is the first in a series. The DVD presents narratives from ex-slaves and provides strong genealogical evidence pertaining to each where possible. Depending on each individual, evidence may include census records, death records, probate records, plantation records, and information on slave owners. This DVD discusses ex-slaves who were born in Virginia or had parents or grandparents born in Virginia. By 1937-38 many of those interviewed had already migrated away to other states. This work also includes appendixes with genealogical findings on former slaves living in Alabama and Georgia who did not have Virginia roots. There is an advanced search which permits a viewer to search by name. The most interesting part is reading these narratives and expanding our knowledge of the people who lived during this time period. Tales are told about freed slaves who were treated kindly and of not so kind powerful men who tried to trick them back into servitude. Books and learning were important to these former slaves so that they could protect themselves from such tricks. One narrative mentions Mrs. Abraham Lincoln while on a trip to Richmond, Va., observing a pregnant slave woman being beaten. Mrs. Lincoln stated she would be sure to share this event with her husband when she returned to Washington, D.C. One can’t help but wonder how events such as this may have affected much of the history we now know. The DVD is available for $39.99 plus $5.50 shipping from Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 3600 Clipper Mill Road, Suite 260, Baltimore, MD 21211-1953 or 1-800-296-6687. A website is available at

The Southern Indiana Genealogical Society (SIGS) will celebrate its 35th anniversary at its May 1 meeting. Library representatives of genealogy and local history departments will present a workshop, “Finding First Families in Floyd, Clark, and Harrison Counties.” Guest speakers Melissa Wiseheart, Allison Fredrickson, and Kathy Fisher of the New Albany-Floyd County, Jeffersonville Township (in Clark County), and Harrison County Public Libraries will suggest strategies for researching original settlers in the three counties by using common and unique resources. The program is part of SIGS’ First Families of Floyd, Clark, and Harrison Counties Project which is dedicated to discovering, honoring, and preserving the memory of the tri-county pioneers. Membership in First Families is open to anyone proving direct descent from a settler living in the tri-county area prior to Dec. 31, 1840. Web link provides applications for the First Families Project. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library, 180 W. Spring St. in New Albany. More information may be found at The public is invited.

— Vicky  Zuverink is a past president of the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society. Queries are free and must include both a date to establish a time period and a location where the people lived. Please include your e-mail or postal address so you can be contacted by someone interested in your family. Submit queries to: Vicky Zuverink at

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