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Re: McDONALD, William in Panama Canal Zone


The U.S. didn't take over construction of the Panama Canal until 1904. Prior to that time, it was under the control of a French firm (approx 1881-1893), which was abandoned in 1893 after the deaths of over 20,000 workers. If your ancestor worked on the canal prior to the time the U.S. took control, I would imagine that any archives of same might be in a French archive somewhere???

However, I found this info on the NARA website, but it only covers employment records after the U.S. took over:
"Record Group 185, Records of the Panama Canal, is an overlooked source of information documenting African American involvement in this major twentieth-century construction project. Several series of records (General Correspondence, 1904-1914; General Records, 1914-1960; and Alpha Files, 1904-1960) contain a substantial amount of information concerning how African Americans, white Americans, Panamanians, West Indians, and canal authorities responded to general living and working conditions in the Canal Zone.

African Americans started arriving on the Canal Zone in the early construction years of 1904-1908. They secured employment as many others did, directly through the various canal recruitment offices in the United States or through contractors doing work in the Canal Zone. Upon arrival, they ran headlong into a separatist/racist employment system that affected every phase of life there."

I also found an interesting link on the BBC website which profiled the life of a black man, born in Wales, who has ancestors who were from Jamaica and worked on the Panama Canal for both the French and American teams:
"There is a long history of West Indians heading to Panama during the various attempts to build the Panama Canal, first under the French and then under the American team in the first decades of the 20th century. After some careful research in surviving employment records, Colin found that Richard Packer, Gladys's husband, worked on the canal in 1905 for six months, before finding employment in the hospital. He stayed in Panama until at least 1921, when Maria was born. She returned to look after Richard when he fell ill, leaving her own children to start a new life in Wales with her estranged husband Dee."

The link for that article:

*** Does anyone else have any ideas about where employment of the French-term Panama Canal might be kept? ***

Good luck in your search.

- Lisa B. Lee, PLCGS
Oakland, CA

Messages In This Thread

McDONALD, William in Panama Canal Zone
Re: McDONALD, William in Panama Canal Zone

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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