San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

NARA Databases: Fair Employment Practices Committee

WWII War Industry Workers Discrimination Files

By Martha Wallace

Courtesy NARA at SF
Did someone in your family work in an essential war indus­try in Northern Cali­fornia, Washington, Oregon or Nevada during World War II? Was this person a racial or relig­ious minority, or from another country?
The Fair Employment Practices Committee was created by Presi­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt by Ex­ecutive Order 8802 on June 25, 1941. The order banned dis­crimination in any de­fense in­dus­try receiving federal con­tracts by declaring … "there shall be no discrimination in the em­ploy­ment of work­ers in defense in­dus­tries or government be­cause of race, creed, color, or na­tional origin." The order also empow­ered the FEPC to investi­gate complaints and take ac­tion re­garding em­ployment dis­crimi­nation. Only those cases that in­volved essential war­time indus­tries were inves­tigated.

It was created by President Roo­sevelt after A. Phillip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, threatened a march on Washington unless something was done to cor­rect the great injustices in employ­ment discrimi­nation that were occurring, not only among Afri­can Ameri­cans, but also because of relig­ion and nationality. FDR agreed to have the FEPC pro­hibit discrimination in de­fense plants, but he re­fused to address the is­sue of segregation in the mili­tary, which had been Randolph's original concern.
For the first two years, the Committee existed only in Wash­ington, D. C., with little funding and power. In May 1943, the committee ex­panded to 13 re­gional and 5 sub-regional of­fices with power (and funding) to inves­tigate claims, conduct hearings, and take steps to eliminate dis­crimi­na­tion. The re­gional FEPC office in San Francisco handled all cases on the west coast, including Washington, Nevada, and Oregon, with a sub-office in Los Angeles.
Hiring by wartime industries was done in two gen­eral ways: 
•  Requests sent by a company or a government service (for ex­ample, Alameda Naval Air Sta­tion) to the USES (United States Employment Service).
•  Requests sent to the union by a com­pany with a union con­tract.

 The records contain stories of brave men and 
women who filed complaints with the FEPC

Complaints could be lodged against a busi­ness, union, or gov­ernment agency and fell into the categories of race, relig­ion, na­tional origin, and citi­zenship. Complaints devel­oped from four gen­eral types of griev­ances:

1. Supervisors often gave preference in types of jobs and promotions to whites, giving the African Americans and other minorities more me­nial jobs and not ad­vancing them to posi­tions which had better conditions and higher pay, al­though in many cases the complainant had received govern­ment training for the better position, and often had moved to the Bay Area from the Midwest or the South to take advan­tage of the job opportuni­ties. Often minority workers doing the same job as white workers received less pay.
2. Company policies and practices did not al­low the hiring of certain groups. Often the excuse was that the whites, or whites from the South, would not tolerate working with the minorities. This trans­lated into a need for separate facilities (changing rooms, more offices, etc.) leading to greater cost and space problems.

Report from Richmond Shipyards, Electricians Union B-302. 
Courtesy NARA at SF
3. The other workers wouldn’t tolerate working with minorities. As explained above, companies said they tried to deal with this at great cost and inconvenience. The FEPC often sent a pamphlet “How Management Can Integrate Negroes in War Industries,” or would offer help to the company to deal with the issue.
4. Unions had written into their charters that African Americans and/or women were not al­lowed to join. The companies, especially the ship­building companies, had contracts with the un­ions and would not hire anyone who did not have a “ticket” from the union.
Once this was challenged, the unions created aux­iliaries for African Americans. Although they paid full membership, they did not receive full mem­bership benefits, including insurance, the right to vote, and the right to certain types of jobs – usu­ally the better jobs in terms of conditions and pay.
A California Supreme Court Case, James vs. Marinship and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (February 1944) dealt with union dis­crimination. The decision held that aux­iliaries were il­legal and that unions could not ex­clude African Ameri­cans when there was a closed shop in the industry. It effec­tively vacated the union’s practice of re­quiring auxiliary member­ship for African Ameri­cans who worked in the shipyards and ordered the union to grant them equal mem­bership with other shipyard workers.

Letter to President Roosevelt from Lila James, Thanksgiving Day, 1942. 
Courtesy NARA st SF

 The records contain stories of brave men and women who filed complaints with the FEPC. When the situations are described, the discrimi­na­tion is often so blatant and the opportunities so obvious for retaliation against a complainant, that it is clear that it took amazing courage to come forth with the complaint.

The records produced in the San Francisco office of the FEPC for northern California, Portland, and Seattle had been stored away and rarely in­vesti­gated until the recent creation of a database  by Helen Crisman and Martha Wallace. The database is  which is available at the National Archives, Pacific Re­gion and on the SMCGS website.

These files are a valuable resource for those who are researching family history, wartime in­dus­try, the labor movement, and civil rights.

Check the FEPC Index (link below) If you find a file of interest fill in the research form and contact NARA to set up a time to view the files, which need to be brought from the stacks. The thrill of reading the whole story and perhaps finding a letter with your ancestor’s signature is not to be missed!

Betty Reid Soskin 3376
NPS Photo

During World War II Betty Reid Soskin worked as a clerk for Boilermakers Union A-36, an Afri­can-American auxiliary. Today she is a park ranger at the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Rich­mond, which explores and honors the role of women and African-Americans in war industries

The National Archives, Pacific Region, San Francisco
1000 Commodore Drive, San Bruno, CA 94066-2350
(650) 238-3501

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

NARA Databases: An Overview

The San Mateo County Genealogical Society is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a series of databases created by Martha Wallace, a volunteer at the National Archives at San Francisco (actually in San Bruno).  The databases will be available on  Click on Research and choose DATABASES.  On the Database Page look for the heading NARA - Pacific Region - SF.

Records held by the National Archives at San Francisco involve only Federal Activity. They mainly cover  Northern California, Nevada (except Clark County), Hawaii and the territories of American Samoa, Guam and the former trust territory of the Pacific Islands.  In some cases when a federal agency's region was centered in these areas with wider coverage,  you might find records for other states and Southern California.

The databases that Martha Wallace has created focus on two areas, the FEPC records from WWII and District and Circuit Court Records covering the years 1851 to 1912. Since San Francisco was the judicial center for California in early statehood, the court databases provide an opportunity to find people who lived in the bay area. Future blog posts will provide descriptions of those records, links to other relevant websites and most importantly links to the databases, which are indexes to individuals and companies involved with some description of the contents of the cases.

Remember, the National Archives is a just that, an archival repository.  Records are not available instantly, it is necessary to make an appointment.  When making the appointment you should provide as much information as possible on the records you would like to view. For more information on making an appointment visit the NARA Contact Page.

The databases we will be hosting are just the tip of the iceberg of records held in San Bruno. Available holdings are contained in 109 different record groups. Finding Aids for Records in NARA at San Francisco provides a link to a guide that describes the contents of the collections. There are also links to more detailed descriptions, lists and indexes for some of the collections .  One example is the index to Alcatraz Prisoner files,


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Early Northern San Mateo County Settlers #2

Russell Brabec has added another ten biographies to the collection of Early Northern San Mateo County Settlers.
John Donald Daly

Tanforan Racetrack
owned by John William Marchbank
Links for all of the Early Northern San Mateo County Settlers as well as to biographical material on other early San Mateo County Residents can be found on the SMCGS website, click on Research on the main menu bar and then on First Families.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

SMCGS Databases Online: Index to Unrecorded Maps

This index has over 23000 individual name entries and another 682 entries for organizations and  businesses handwritten on 54 volumes of unrecorded subdivision maps located in the SMC record repository.

There are no official dates on the maps or the books that contain them, however, some odd notes and miscellaneous papers included in the books suggest that they date from 1900 to 1930.

The notes also indicate that they were kept by the County Assessors Department.  In some cases names have been erased and others substituted.  Some pages hold only the name of the original subdivider of the land.

aAt least three people were responsible for adding the names to the maps. One used a very clear print script, one used a relatively easy to decipher cursive script.  Some names, however, were very difficult to read.  The indexers did the best they could.  Additionally, there were mistakes in the names themselves.  You can find the same name written three ways on the same page.

Always check the map page carefully, a name was only added to the index once for each page even though they might be listed on two or more properties.

The San Mateo County Public Works Department has put the images for these maps, and an index to the places they cover, online on a page titled Unrecorded Map Index.  Hit the content link for each book to open a page with all the map images from that book.  You can view them online or downloaded them to your computer.

The original books are located in the County Record Repository on Tower Road

Name Index to Unrecorded Maps