Works Progress Administration Reports Added to the DAR Library’s Digital Resources

Written by: Kadri Kallikorm-Rhodes, DAR Library Reference Services Librarian
April 22, 2019

Thanks to a generous gift from Colorado Daughters, the DAR Library has embarked on an effort to identify and digitize genealogically relevant reports produced by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s and 40s to be added to the Library’s digital resources. The WPA was a New Deal agency employing millions of people to carry out public works projects.

As part of the WPA, the Historical Records Survey was devoted to surveying and indexing historically significant records in state, county and local archives. Additionally, individual states were given funding to create a series of reports entitled “Federal Archives in the States,” which documented these federal collections department by department (documenting, for example, the Treasury Department archives in Illinois.) Of even more interest to genealogists are the inventories of county and town archives, which document local collections at that time. Many states also published transcriptions of a variety of other records, including reports of cemetery readings. DAR members in a number of states (especially Tennessee and Indiana, but also many others) were actively involved at all stages of the WPA endeavor, and many members most likely worked on the project.

The exact total number of reports produced as a part of the WPA undertaking will never be known, as many publications were never completed, or were published years after the project’s official end. We are lucky that we have had copies of many of the WPA Historical Records Survey reports from many states in our holdings for years. And now thanks to the generosity of the Colorado Daughters, led by State Regent Jeannine Dobbins, the DAR Library has made over 2,000 of these WPA reports findable as a collection, including digitizing content and linking records to already-digitized copies. This work is still ongoing and more will continue to be added, but the collection can already be accessed here.

The records can be searched either by project name or keyword – thus, clicking on “West Virginia Historic Marker Project” in the Browse menu will bring up the many reports that it created. 

The links to external sites will take the user to electronic copies on non-DAR sites, whereas the ‘View Book’ links will take the users to content on the DAR servers. (Please note that some of these resources may require you to sign in to with your free username and password.)

The ‘Keyword Search’ option allows you to search across projects – in the example below we searched for ‘probate cases of Texas,’ which yielded 29 indices for a variety of Texas counties.

The collection can be browsed by the name of the specific project that created it (e.g. Tennessee Historical Records Survey), or searched by using keywords (e.g. marriage within the West Virginia Historic Marker Project). Additional digitization will take place later in 2019 to further expand the collection over time.

Thanks again to the Colorado Daughters for their generous donation. We are excited to add this new digitized collection to the DAR Library resources and we hope you find it helpful in your research!

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