On This Day in History
On April 8, 1935, Congress approved the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a key aspect of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s efforts to help millions of unemployed. As part of his New Deal, at the height of the Great Depression, the WPA created government jobs for many of the nation’s unemployed. The WPA employed more than 8.5 million persons on 1.4 million public projects before it was disbanded in 1943. The program chose work that would not interfere with private enterprise, especially vast public building projects like the construction of highways, bridges, and dams. Its programs were extremely popular, and contributed significantly to Roosevelt’s landslide reelection in 1936.
The WPA made significant contributions to the field of genealogy. Government workers went into county courthouses and indexed records, such as births, marriages and deaths. They typed up the old handwritten ledgers, putting the data in neat, alphabetized columns. For example, all the vital records of Indiana counties from 1882 through 1920, are available in typescript. The publishing date of 1936 or thereabouts, on the title pages of dozens of books, as well as the authorship of Works Progress Administration, is a testament to the very ‘vital’ effort that went into making vital records of our ancestors readily available. Thank you, President Roosevelt!