Employee Newsletters as a Genealogical Resource

Employee magazines and newsletters generally contain articles about company events as well as employee news, such as births, promotions, awards, retirements and deaths. These publications are an under-used source for gathering genealogical material.

The Illinois Central is one of many companies which published this type of magazine. For example, in the July 1922 edition (p. 133-124) of the Illinois Central Magazine, we find an obituary for John T. Nason of the Mississippi Division.

“John T. Nason, passenger conductor on the Mississippi division, died in the Illinois Central Hospital at New Orleans, May 30, after an illness of two months. Mr. Nason had been in the service for thirty-two years. He was employed as a flagman out of Water Valley, Miss., August 7, 1890, and was promoted to conductor December 11, 1893. He was an affable and agreeable gentleman and was highly esteemed by the railway employees and the public in general. He was buried in his home town, Starkville, Miss. with Masonic honors, having been a member of the Valley City Lodge No. 402, McConnico Chapter No. 96 and St. Cyr Commandery No. 6, all at the Water Valley, the Wahabi Temple Shrine, Jackson, Miss., and the Water Valley Elks Lodge No. 459.”

A picture accompanied the obituary.

The article above the obituary contained this bit of news about a kindred spirit from the Local Freight Office in Louisville:

“Mark Sheehan is seriously considering taking a trip to “old Erin.” During the time that he is there it is his intention to get as much information as possible relative to his ancestral tree. So far he has traced six generations.”

From the March/April 1959 (p 16) issue of the Donnelley company’s Lakeside Review, we learn that Robert Shaarda, graduate-apprentice, became a journeyman Directory Offset Pressman.

The Lakeside News, an earlier Donnelley publication, included such updates as house purchases, vacation news and sports results. The August 15, 1918 issue (p. 13) reports that “Cris Davust, while away on a two week vacation, started a very promising mustache.”

Although useful, these types of publications can be tricky to find. Search WorldCat using the company name as the author. If you get too many results, narrow your search by selecting “journal” or “magazine” as the format. Or include the words “news,” “newsletter,” or “magazine” as title words. WorldCat will often provide the location of digitized as well as hardcopy versions of the publication.

Sometimes company publications are included in archival collections donated to libraries, archives or historical societies. You’ll find some of these collections by utilizing ArchiveGrid. Still no luck? Try contacting the company if it’s still in business or check with the closest public library.

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