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Q. How do I find records on workers in coal mines? I am looking for those in Ohio.
A. This is a search that requires some tenacity—but it can work! You might find payroll informaion, employee records, accident reports or just company financial records and correspondence. First, check censuses to verify the person’s locality and occupation.
Then, consult old histories and newspapers to see what mining companies operated there. Check the catalogs of the Ohio State Archives and the pertinent Ohio Network of American History Research Centers library. An obituary, military draft registration or Social Security application form (SS-5) might provide the name of the company your ancestor worked for.
Depending on who last owned the mine, employment records might not have survived, or they may be in another state. Once you have a company name, consult the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC)—which catalogs about 72,300 manuscript collections of personal, family and corporate papers—to see if you can find the company’s records. The state archives or a county historical society also might have records relating to coal mines.
A federal documents depository library will likely have some state and federal published reports about mines, such as safety and accident reports. If your ancestor was involved in a mining accident, look for newspaper articles (including those of the labor press) about the incident.
These websites also might help you in your search:
- Information on selected US mine accidents
- African-American Coal Miner Information Center
- GeneaLinks: Coal Miners
- History of Coal Mining in Ohio
- Southeastern Ohio Coal Industry and History
- Registry of miners in Athens, Hocking, Morgan and Perry counties, Ohio
See the December 2011 Family Tree Magazine for more expert advice on researching the records and experiences of ancestors in the mining, automotive, railroad and other industries. It’s available in print or as a digital download Family Tree Shop.