Launching the CCC
It was on the fifth of April 1933 that Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed it.
It was intended to implement, in part, the provisions of “An Act for the relief of unemployment through the performance of useful public work, and for other purposes,” which became law just days earlier.1
Executive Order 6101 — signed 88 years ago today — launched the Civilian Conservation Corps.2
And, just two days later, it began to put hundreds of thousands of young unemployed American men to work.
The Legal Genealogist will spare you the language of the Executive Order itself, since about the only part that isn’t pure government-geek-speak is the part that begins “By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Act of Congress entitled ‘An Act for the relief of unemployment through the performance of useful public work, and for other purposes,’ … it is hereby ordered that …”3
The statute itself tells much more of the story:
That for the purpose of relieving the acute condition of widespread distress and unemployment now existing in the United States, and in order to provide for the restoration of the country’s depleted natural resources and the advancement of an orderly program of useful public works, the President is authorized, … to provide for employing citizens of the United States who are unemployed, in the construction, maintenance and carrying on of works of a public nature in connection with the forestation of lands belonging to the United States or to the several States which are suitable for timber production, the prevention of forest fires, floods and soil erosion, plant pest and disease control, the construction, maintenance or repair of paths, trails and fire-lanes in the national parks and national forests, and such other work on the public domain, national and State, and government reservations incidental to or necessary in connection with any projects of the character enumerated, as the President may desire to be desirable…4
And so the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was born, bringing with it the creation of so many cool records that tell so much more of the stories of members of our own families.
In my family, for example, we couldn’t find my mother’s oldest brother, Billy Rex Cottrell, with the family on the 1940 census.5 I knew he’d joined the Navy soon afterwards, but he hadn’t joined up yet — so where was he?
It took me awhile before it occurred to me but — sure enough — Billy had been off serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps. He was literally en route from his CCC station to his home on the enumeration date of that census. And the 12 pages of his personnel records for the time of his CCC service, from 6 October 1938 to 31 March 1940, are just priceless.6
It’s not just finding out what he’d done — he’d been a common laborer, a cook and a truck driver. Or what he’d been trained in — surveying, first aid, auto operation, radio communication, and safety, among others. It wasn’t even learning that he was a skinny 18-year-old standing 5’9″ tall and weighing 140 pounds when he went in, claiming to be an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier, or even what schools he’d attended or jobs he’d held before serving in the CCC.
It was the fact that he’d taken this on knowing that the vast majority of the whopping $30 a month he’d receive would be sent home. Home to my grandparents, struggling to raise a whole passel of younger kids.
It’s a genealogical jewel, and it’s out there waiting for all of us whose fathers, uncles, grandfathers or cousins served in the CCC.
The individual records of CCC recruits are held by the National Archives as part of the civilian personnel holdings at the regional repository in St. Louis, Missouri. There’s a whole explanation of the records online at the NARA-St. Louis website.7
That’s good news and bad news all wrapped up in one. Good news because the records survive and can be ordered by email using NARA request form 14136. Bad news because, of course, of the pandemic and the closures of NARA facilities so that records requests are way backed up. And it’s good-news-bad-news that there’s a fee of $25 for records up to five pages, and a fee of $70 for files of six pages and up — but no fee for a records search that doesn’t turn up a record.
If I were just discovering today that I might have had a relative in the CCC, I’d go ahead and file the records request to get into the queue for once things open back up. And I’d try to learn as much about the CCC as I could. Just as a few options:
• NARA’s Prologue Magazine had an article “Into the Woods: The First Year of the Civilian Conservation Corps,” by Joseph M. Speakman, in its Fall 2006 issue that’s available online.
• NARA’s 2015 Virtual Fair had a presentation, “Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Personnel Records,” presented by Ashley Mattingly. Because many presentations are included in the video, jump forward to about the 4:09 mark. And — sigh — note that the sound is a little funky until about the 4:10 mark.
• The 2018 NARA Virtual Fair had a presentation, “How to Search for Photographs that Document CCC Camps & Activities,” presented by Kaitlyn Crain Enrique and Kelsey Noel.
And there’s a website called Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy with some good information as well. Its CCC Legacy History Center includes a bibliography, camp lists, digital archives and even photos by state.
So many goodies for research.
All because of one law and one Executive Order putting it in motion.
Executive Order 6101, signed exactly 88 years ago today.
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Executive Order 6101,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted date).
- “An Act for the relief of unemployment through the performance of useful public work, and for other purposes,” 48 Stat. 22 (31 March 1933). ↩
- See “Executive Order 6101, Starting The Civilian Conservation Corps,” Executive Orders, The American Presidency Project, University of California at Santa Barbara (https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ : accessed 5 Apr 2021). ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- §1, “An Act for the relief of unemployment through the performance of useful public work, and for other purposes,” 48 Stat. 22. ↩
- 1940 U.S. census, Midland County, Texas, Midland, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 165-3A, sheet 7-B, household 161, C.R. Cottrell household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 5 Apr 2021); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 4105. ↩
- Individual Record, Civilian Conservation Corps, Billy Rex Cottrell CC-8-3802504, 1938-1940; Official Personnel Folder (OPF); National Archives-St. Louis. ↩
- “Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Enrollee Records, Archival Holdings and Access,” National Archives at St. Louis (https://www.archives.gov/st-louis/ : accessed 5 Apr 2021). ↩