Now What? Wondering About Welfare

By Emily Anne Croom Premium

Q. On March 23, 1937, my grandmother received a letter from Logan County, Ark., welfare, stating that they wanted her to care for her father, Scott Massey. Arkansas has no death records of him, I have no names for his parents and Grandma didn’t know who her mother was, as her father raised her. Did Social Security go back that far, and how can I find any welfare records?

A. Yes, early Arkansas death registrations are limited. The state’s welfare records from the 1930s and 1940s no longer exist. When Social Security cards were first issued in late 1936, people eligible to participate were primarily industrial workers. If Scott Massey retired before Jan. 1, 1937, or worked in a rural county such as Logan, he probably didn’t have a Social Security number and the accompanying application. (Here’s more information on finding ancestors’ Social Security applications.)

To identify his wife and his parents, first work backward through federal census records from 1920 to 1880 to identify relatives in his household; also read 1850 to 1870 censuses to identify household members, although relationships were not reported. (Censuses up through 1930 are available for research.) Look for his marriage record, possibly in or near the county where your grandmother was born. Consult newspapers from his area, any applicable church or military records and courthouse records in his resident counties. Check the Logan County tombstone project at <>.
Many records are available on microfilm through FamilySearch Centers (see <>), in the county courthouses, and/or at the state archives. See The Family Tree Sourcebook: Your Essential Directory for County and Town Records  for help finding and using local records.

From the June 2002 Family Tree Magazine