by Sara

In your search for your family history, have you gone beyond just recording names, dates and places?  It is interesting and worthwhile to try to flesh out other details of our ancestors’ lives, including such information as church membership, hobbies, club memberships, military service, residences, and occupations of our family members.  Sometimes these details will provide clues that lead you to further records about your ancestor. All of this description about their lives helps to humanize the persons we are researching and will provide great reading for future generations perusing the family history we have left behind.  

Beyond genealogical reasons, knowing our ancestor’s work history and occupation can have far-reaching health and legal ramifications.  Several months ago, I helped a gentleman in The Genealogy Center to document his deceased father’s work history.  We reviewed Fort Wayne City and Allen County Directories for the 1940s (we have a complete run of these directories for all years published) and made copies of his father’s entries, which listed his employer. In the course of our conversation, I learned that the patron had seen a notice in the Journal Gazette that former employees of the Joslyn Manufacturing and Supply Company (now defunct) were being sought by the United States Department of Labor in regard to benefits that may be due to them or their heirs because of hazardous work conditions. This company was located on Taylor Street in Fort Wayne, and in the 1940s manufactured rods made of uranium to be used in the atomic bomb. Many former employees, including this patron’s father, developed health problems after working with the uranium. In order to claim benefits, he explained to me that he was accumulating paperwork for the government: including proof of employment (from the directories); Social Security Administration Earnings Information; death certificate; medical records; and related records.  

The patron recently returned to the library and gave me an update. He sent in the required paperwork and his mother, as surviving widow, was awarded compensation.  He is now helping several of his dad’s buddies also gain benefits. The government is actively looking for other affected workers and their families.  If you or your family may have been affected, while working at the Joslyn Manufacturing Company from 1943 to 1952, look into this program. For additional information, contact the Labor Department's Paducah Resource Center at 866-534-0599. The same program also has compensation available for workers in other energy-related fields.  See the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act website for list of companies.  

If this patron hadn’t known where his dad had worked, he might have missed out on legitimate money owed to his family.  What might you learn about your ancestors’ occupations?