If your ancestors lived during the Civil War, you may not think you’d learn much about their lives from a project that began in 1936. You may be wrong.
From 1936 to 1940, members of the Federal Writers’ Project interviewed Americans for a Works Progress Administration oral-history project. Their work is now available in the Library of Congress’ online American Life Histories Collection.
The collection includes 2,900 documents, ranging in length from 2,000 to 15,000 words. During the interviews, subjects discussed topics such as political views, experience, life observations and education. Some interviewees were old enough to have lived through important events of the 19th century; others relate stories handed down through their family.
The narratives offer glimpses into the everyday lives of farmers, doctors, slaves, soldiers, pioneers and gold seekers. The site is searchable by keyword or by state. You can narrow or broaden results by specifying “match all the words”, “match some of the words” or “match exact phrase.” . Because the collection was written by US government employees, it’s not eligible for copyright protection, so feel free to download stories that relate to your family and add them to your genealogy software.
Have you begun writing your life history? Although your life may not seem as exciting as your fur trapper or pioneer ancestor, it is still important to write as much as you can to leave for future generations. Wouldn’t you love to have a life history written by your great-great-grandmother? Your great-great-granddaughters will feel the same!
Learn more about writing your own history:
• Family Tree Magazine Write Your Family History Workshops
• Association of Personal Historians
• Writing Your Memoirs