Posted in Genealogy Toolkit, Railroad maps

Genealogy Toolkit: Were they workin’ on the railroad?

One of the great 19th century developments in the United States was the railroad industry.  When the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads joined at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869 and thus made the transcontinental railway a reality, it was a monumental day in the nation’s history.

Alfred A. Hart stereoview #359 detail, “The Monarch from the East.”
showing the U.S. 21st Infantry Band in front of UPRR Locomotive #119.
Promontory Summit, UT, May 10, 1869. Courtesy National Park Service.

You may have had an ancestor who was employed by a railroad.  If so, you will want to locate employee records, which can be a good source of genealogical information.  Here is a good link to locating railroad employee records on the Genealogy Today website.

It has articles and links to employee records for various railroads, links to related organizations, and additional resources.

I also came across a helpful link on the that is “A Study of Railway Transportation—For Primary and Intermediate Grades” by the Association of American Railroads, 1942. It has photos and articles about various aspects of the railroad industry.  Where else could you find a swell picture like this one of a conductor and engineer comparing watches?


Even if you don’t have an ancestor who was employed by a railroad, you will want to learn about the railways that would have impacted their lives.  The Library of Congress Railroad Maps Collection, 1828-1900 is searchable by keyword, geographic location, and railroad line, among other things.

Enjoy some train sounds while you look for your railroading ancestors, courtesy of the Catskill Archive.  Click on the numbers below:

1   2   3   4    5   6   7   8




I am an Accredited Genealogist® professional living in California. I have been researching and teaching since 1988.

4 thoughts on “Genealogy Toolkit: Were they workin’ on the railroad?

  1. I love the sounds of the trains. So cool. I am going to check the link for employee records. So many of my ancestors worked for the N&W Railroad in Virginia.

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