All Aboard! Railroad Retirement Board Records

Announcements appeared in the past week. The Midwest Genealogy Center added a Railroad Retirement Board Claim Records Index covering 1936 to the early 2000s. Few sample documents have been described or shown. As appealing as another index sounds, some will resist checking it because it is only an index.

form name  Indexes lead to records.

With over 1.5 million worker claims indexed, skipping this one is a mistake. Let’s see the types of records that might be found by following an index entry.

Begin at the Midwest Genealogy Center’s website.  On the right side of the home page is a Genealogy Quick Look box. Click it to reach the index search page. The U.S. Railroad Retirement Board is one of the choices in the drop-down menu.

I searched for Luther Loy in the railroad index. There are three results for people named L. Loy. The date of birth column helps to narrow down the options. I needed the L. Loy born in March 1880, so I clicked on his name.

The page I landed on was unique to that claimant, L. Loy, born March 1880. The death year, 1963, is correct for the target Luther. Death year is another way to narrow down multiple results. A record ID number, claim ID number, and claim location are provided in search results. This man’s record ID was 76117, and claim ID A257462. The claim location listed is X019.

I would not be doing reasonably exhaustive research if I ignored the other two index entries just because I thought they would not be relevant. After all, the years are close. The second entry, L. Loy, has a July 1881 birth date and a 1963 death date. The record ID is 184274, and claim is A433303. The claim location is given as X008. Luther’s widow was born in October 1884, so the birth date on this entry does not refer to her.

The final L. Loy was born September 1890. No death year is listed. His record ID is 681125, claim ID is D062053, and claim location is X008.

Users can print the screen and follow a link to submit a records order request. The results screen indicates that Luther’s records are held at the National Archives at Atlanta.

NARA at Atlanta’s website gives background on the records and ordering information. Copies presently cost eighty cents per page. Records at Atlanta include claims for those who worked after 1963. Luther retired before 1963, and died that year, but he is in the index.

I received Luther Loy’s claim file in 1997 from the Railroad Retirement Board. They held inactive files then. Luther’s file consists of an eighth-inch of paper. My grandfather’s file, received a year earlier, is slightly taller than Luther’s file. Both are rich with information.

Remember the first L. Loy, with claim ID number A257462? That number appears on several pages in Luther’s file, including on his widow’s claim, which is part of the packet. The index’s other two claim numbers are not in Luther’s claim packet.

Back to records and that eighth-inch file. What might only an index get you?

Some of the records in the file:

Employee’s Statement of Compensated Service Rendered Prior to January 1, 1937, to Employers Under the Railroad Retirement Act of 1937. Luther gave his full name, address, race, gender, birth date and specific birth location, father’s full name, and mother’s full maiden name. He listed his railroad positions, start and end dates, the department and its location, and the railroads that employed him. Had he claimed military service prior to 1937, he would have listed the service branch and his dates of entry and discharge.
Record of Employee’s Prior Service. Luther’s bimonthly compensation is listed from 1924—1931. In 1924 he earned $1,799.94 as a carpenter. In 1931 his earnings were $1,616.45. These forms were completed for each railroad occupation that Luther held.      luther smaller compensation rrApplication for Annuity Under the Railroad Retirement Act. Luther’s application repeated his name, birth information, his parents’ names, and included his wife’s full maiden name. His occupations and years worked were repeated.
Certificate of Termination of Service and Relinquishment of Rights. Luther signed on 3 June 1945. His address and the names of two witnesses are provided.
Request for Information Required Under The 1951 Amendments to the Railroad Retirement Act. Luther’s name, birth date and place, address, social security number, wife’s name, wife’s birth place and address, and the date of their marriage are listed. Luther did not have any children under age 18. His signature appears.
Bureau of the Census 1900 census information. The census bureau provided 1900 census data showing Luther’s month and year of birth. The household name was given. The census verification was to be accepted in lieu of a birth certificate.
Application of Wife For Spouse’s Annuity. In 1951, Luther’s wife Winnie applied for an annuity. She provided her address, full maiden name, birth date and place, parents’ full nwinnie application snip rrrbames, and her marriage date and place. Other questions included those on children under 18 (none), if she had a social security number (no), and if she had ever worked (no). Winnie’s signature appears.
Husband’s Certification. Luther verified that he was married to Winnie. If Luther had any prior marriages, he would have included the marriage dates and places, names of other spouses, and how and when the marriages ended. Luther signed the certification.
Bureau of the Census. The 1900 census verification for Winnie showed her month and year of birth, and the names of her parents.
Marriage Certificate, License, and Return. Luther and Winnie’s 1902 marriage certificate, license, and return are included. The return includes application information, including the names of groom and bride, places of residence, occupations, age, color and race, full names of parents, number of marriage for each, where and when married, by whom married, and marriage witnesses. Why is this document so special? Because the clerk in this county refuses to release the application portion with marriage records. Even for a 1902 marriage.
Retirement board card. This card lists Winnie’s parents’ names, her birth date and place, and her husband’s social security number and monthly benefit rate.
Medical Certificate of Death, State of Illinois. Luther’s death certificate is in the file. It has his most recent occupation, cause of death, burial place, and information typical of a modern death record. His mother’s given name is incorrect, and is spelled at least four ways in this file.
Application for Widow’s or Widower’s Insurance Annuity. Winnie applied for an annuity after Luther died. His birth and death dates and places, her maiden name, birth date and place, and her parents’ names are listed. Her address and phone number appear below her 1963 signature.

How does my grandfather’s file compare? It is similar. Some forms were updated. There was no census bureau age verification, simply a statement that his birth date was verified using insurance papers. There are no vital records in the file.

Did I gain insight with the railroad retirement records that I received?


Every record we receive causes us to need to do a bit more research. I want to know more about the positions held, how pay rates compared to other railroad workers and the general population, learn about the Railroad Retirement Act and its amendments, research the transit union, and check out the railroads mentioned to see if other records are available.

It starts with an index.

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