Granddad and NARA

My Carroll grandfather passed away when I was seven. I have only vague memories of him. I found him in the usual sources — censuses, draft registration cards, death certificate — but was left wondering if there might be more.

He never served in the military. His World War II draft registration card mentioned he was working for the U.S. Custom Service. (This was the “old man’s draft”: he was already 61.)  Eventually, the light bulb went on. He didn’t work for just anybody — he worked for the Federal Government! Do they only keep military records?

Google led me to the Archival Holdings of civilian Official Personnel Folders at the National Archives in St. Louis. My grandfather was nobody important, so I didn’t expect them to have anything, but I filled out the form and mailed it to them. After I paid the fee, they sent back two manila folders! He had worked there twenty years. Most of the pages are of little use (requests for sick leave, etc.). But one form details his entire work history, not only for the Custom Service but earlier as well.  He signed another in July 1941, swearing he did not “advocate the overthrow of the Government of the United States by force or violence.” This was required of all government employees, by the Hatch Act of 1939.

This unlikely source gave me details about my grandfather’s life, a better sense of his times, and his signature. Are there any federal employees in your family tree?

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