Federal Writers Project of the 1930s to 40s

As a method to have some people employed during the 1930s Great Depression, especially those good at writing, was to develop a project to have writers interview individuals across America, to get their life story. This would provide an income to the writers and a very important collection of American stories by individuals.

So for several years, writers did go out to big cities, small towns and rural areas to talk to ordinary people and write about their life story. It could have also been about someone in their hometown or an ancestor’s life. Such a great method to preserve those priceless stories.

The U.S. Library of Congress has those life stories and they have been made digital and online. The listings are in alphabetical order, hundreds of locations. Select a letter of a location you are interested in, say a family hometown, home county or state.

As you view the selection (keep in mind NOT every town or county has life stories), you will see a number in brackets next to the name. That is the number of stories from that location. The state of Massachusetts has 137 stories and the state of Maine has 29 stories. You will even locations from other countries. For example ‘France’ has 1 story.

When you click on one of interest you then see how many pages. As an example, my father’s family was from Lynn, MA and worked in the shoe factories. So I found a story titled “The Machines in the Shoe Shop” from Lynn done in 1939. You click on each page and enlarge the print if needed. You will see that many are the raw write-up with handwritten corrections that were made. If some of the typed stories are hard to read, click on the top box labeled ‘Show Text’ and it is transcribed clearer to the left.

Another one located was the write-up about the ‘Stembler Family of Miami, FL’ done in 1939 has 18 pages. Here a pioneer Miami family is covered, the individuals and their achievements. It is quite detailed. Also about what the family house looked like.

You never know until you examine the various locations and the stories associated with the place what gem of information you can find.

Photos: Stembler Family; and Life story of Maston Harris (Morgan’s Raid) of Jefferson County in Indiana.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Popular Baby Names of the 1930s

New York City Photos of the 1930s

Telling the Family Story

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