Genealogical Research

Reference Sources for Information Concerning Former Employees of the Illinois Central
Compiled by David Daisy

From time to time the ICHS receives inquiries from a variety of persons seeking information concerning former employees of the Illinois Central. The inquiries are typically about a relative who had been an employee at some time in the past, but not always. Nor is it always clear as to the reasons for the inquiry and the purpose to which the information may be applied. The requests for information are variously directed at officers and other members of the board of directors. This article is an attempt to assist anyone seeking this type of information with possible sources for the information they seek.

The society does not maintain or even have access to any personnel records of any employee of the Illinois Central System. 1851-1972: Illinois Central Gulf.1972-1988 or the modem Illinois Central Railroad. 1988-2001. The function and programmatic activities of ICHS are confined to preserving as much historical and educational information possible for future generations. Requests for information concerning individual former employees of any time period or geographical locale cannot be fulfilled. Inquiries may be made directly to other possible sources as outlined in the following discussion.


                  Inquiries Directed to the Railroad Company

Requests for personnel information made directly to the railroad company will have little success. In fact, in many cases such requests in the past have simply been referred to the ICHS. As pointed out earlier, the society is not involved in employee history. Moreover, as a fallen flag the Illinois Central no longer exists since it was acquired by the Canadian National. What personnel records that remained, predominantly of employees that were still on the payroll at the time of the merger, were transferred to Canada. Those records will not be released for any purpose to anyone other than for  legal reasons. After the legal requirement for retaining those records by the railroad are met, the records are typically destroyed. Due to legal reasons the only other way to access this information is by a court order. Records for former employees that left the employment of the railroad over twenty years ago have long since been disposed of by the IC.

In the early 1960s the Illinois Central Railroad did a house cleaning of old records, customer accounts, employee files, etc. due to cost of storing them. An article on this house cleaning was featured in the IC employee's magazine. The files and records that were not needed or legally required to keep were destroyed to save space. At the time the railroad records department had maxed out space-wise and was having to rent extra space to store records and files. They shipped literally tons of paper records to recycling companies or destroyed records themselves. During the late 1980s the railroad did another major house cleaning of old records and since the purchase of the IC by the CN in 1999, many IC records were transferred to CN in Canada.

Unneeded records were disposed of in the transfer.


                  Recommended Sources for Information


Before initiating any action to retrieve personnel information on any individual that was an employee of the Illinois Central during any time frame it would greatly expedite the search if a few basic pieces of information were made available for the search. These include, but not limited to (I) full legal name: (2) date of birth: (3) social security number: (4) years of employment; and (5) location of employment within the railroad system. It would also he helpful, it in the event the individual in question were deceased, to give the date of death.

Following is a listing of possible organizations or other sources that might offer helpful information. In cases where applicable the URL for the web site is also given to provide other avenues for research.


                          US Railroad Retirement Board
                      (http://rrb.gov/mep/genealogy.asp)



This organization handles the railroad retirement pension system. There is a non- refundable charge for research conducted by this organization. The individual'S full legal name and social security number is mandatory.


                          The Illinois Central Magazine

For many years the Illinois Central Railroad Company published a monthly employee magazine. Between 1909 and 1972 in each issue, the magazine contained a section of employee news by division and district of the railroad. News items included births, marriages, deaths, awards, retirement, changes in jobs, etc. about employees. The front pages of the magazine also contained articles about history, current projects on the railroad, changes, news and rules that affected the railroad and its employees, new equipment, etc., in a kind of general review of what was happening on the railroad. For a few years during the 50s and 60s, the magazine featured the life and times of a selected IC employee.

The IC employee magazine may be found in some public libraries and at college and University libraries located in states serviced by the Illinois Central. Major national libraries such as the Newberry Library in Chicago or John Barriger III National Railroad Library in St. Louis, MO, and the University of Missouri at St. Louis have collections of the IC magazines.

If the individual in question received an award of any kind it would assist in locating information. An example would be the completion of fifty years of service on the Illinois Central. Each year the Illinois Central would honor all employees that had completed fifty years of service at special banquet and ceremony in Chicago and Memphis. One issue each year of the magazine had a review of the fifty year service ceremony and featured a short biography on each employee honored at the ceremony.


                                      Local Newspapers

Another source of information about an IC employee or former employee is the Local newspaper at the location of their employment. For instance, the former employee may have worked at one of the main locomotive or freight car shops or yards facilities such as Centralia IL, Paducah KY, McComb MS. Memphis, TN, to name a few locations on the IC. Many of the newspapers in these cities had reporters assigned to report on the activities or news at these facilities weekly in the local newspaper for many years till around the 1950s or early 1960s. You can research the local newspapers at any location for news items on the IC. Public libraries usually have micro film records of local newspapers. Check with the newspaper in the city you are interested in to see if in the past they may have had a railroad news column in their paper and how to access old back issues.

                            Books on the Illinois Central

If the individual former employee were an upper level management officer, one may find information in one of the books written on the history of the Illinois Central Railroad.

Mainline of Mid-America:The Story of the Illinois Central, Carlton J. Corliss, Creative Age Press, New York, 1950.- Covers the history of the IC from 1851 to 1951 written in conjunction with the centennial observance of the railroad in 1951. This book can be found at many public libraries and college libraries in states served by the IC. In 1951 the IC gave away a large number of copies of this book to many public and school libraries in cities along the IC.

History of the Illinois Central Railroad, John F. Stover,MacMillan, New York & Boston, 1975. This book covers the history of the IC from 1851 to 1972 merger with the GM&O Railroad to form the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad. This book can be found in many public and college libraries.

History of the Illinois Central Railroad Company and Representative Employees, Railroad Historic Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1900. Contains history of the growth of the Illinois Central and includes biographies of many of the men who have been and are identified with the varied interests of the Illinois Central Railroad.

From the Lakes to The Gulf The Illinois Central Story, Alan R. Lind, Transport History Press. Park Forest. IL, 1993. This book covers the IC history from 1851 to mid-1990s before being taken over by the CN. Currently available in print, copies can be purchased from the ICHS, P. O. BOX 288, Paxton IL, 60957.

Perhaps there are other books on the IC available on a more local basis with important information.


                                      Family Records

A thorough search of family records can sometimes provide enough information as to the nature and locale of the individualS'employment to assist in locating missing information. This approach may reveal the names of associates or fellow employees of the individual in question that may be able to shed light on desired information.

These suggested steps are not intended as exhaustive measures or definitive research tools. They are offered merely as a means to offer a starting point for those in quest of the information.