I read with interest the “Now What?” question on incarcerated ancestors (May 2008). I recently acquired the prison record of an individual in my family tree, but it took some time and determination to locate it.
A family member told me when this man was in jail or prison for bootlegging, but I had no other information. First, I contacted the corrections department in the state where the man had lived. That agency referred me to the Bureau of Prisons because bootlegging was a federal crime. After completing a Freedom of Information Act form, I received the inmate’s “public information data,” which was only a small portion of his file. This just left me with more questions, so I filed another FOIA request.
I then had to provide a copy of his death certificate. I then learned his records were no longer at the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and was directed to the National Archives and Records Administration <archives.gov>. NARA required written permission from the individual’s surviving family to release the parts of the file that included their names or information about them; otherwise, I would’ve had to prove the individual’s family members were deceased.
The record I received from NARA contained about 30 pages. Some text was blacked out, but the documents contained information about the inmate’s prior arrests, the name of his second wife, their marriage date and reference to their divorce, as well as other tidbits that helped provide a broader picture of this family in the 1920s and 1930s and a glimpse into that era of American history. This pursuit took more than six months, but it was worth it!
I’ve been researching my Canadian ancestry for more than a decade, and was surprised and saddened to see the article “Clearly Canadian” (May 2008) failed to include the 1834 abolishment of slavery. For those of us with black Canadian ancestors, I think this event was worth at least including on your timeline. Alas, McGill University’s first hockey club in 1877 was deemed more important than the liberation of thousands of Canadian slaves. I expected more from this article.
Lisa B. Lee