Longtime genealogists search for more than dates, places and names. We also seek details that make make our ancestors “come alive.”
Letters and journals are treasure troves, for they give an insight into the lives of our ancestors. How did they cope with tribulations and celebrate joys? Where did they worship, and what were their religious views? Did other relatives live nearby? How did they earn money?
Interviews also provide personal details about everyday life. If you can’t find interviews of your ancestor, search for interviews of children, grandchildren, other relatives or neighbors.
Interviews done by workers in the Federal Writer’s Program in the 1930s give extraordinary glimpses into life at that time.
Those were desperate years as the stock market crash of 1929 led to the Great Depression in which people could not find jobs and couldn’t feed their families.
The FWP program (one of many programs set up by our government so that people could work) hired teachers, writers, librarians and clerks to interview older people from all walks of life in communities throughout our country.
Unfortunately, records of FWP interviews are found in scattered sites — county courthouses, state government sites and federal sites. Some are also found at historical societies, universities and other institutions. Some interview records no longer exist.
Search Ancestry.com and family search.org to learn whether records exist for the areas where your ancestors lived. FWP interview records from Oklahoma are found at the website of the Oklahoma State Historical Society.
The OHS lists the FWP interviews as the Indian Pioneer Papers. Some institutions list the records as WPA interviews. Workers Progress Administration was another federal program that also employed tens of thousands of desperate people in the 1930s.
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