PRR Voluntary Relief Enrollment Cards at the Pennsylvania State Archives

The Pennsylvania Railroad Company's Voluntary Relief Department was established on February 1, 1886. An insurance plan providing sick and death benefits to the worker or his family the Voluntary Relief Department was funded by the company and by voluntary contributions from the employees. The file cards of this fund are arranged in five file units and there under in alphabetical order by surname of person. These titles were written on the original card cabinet drawers. 1.) Deceased and Left Service File, 2.) Deceased and Left Service File, 3.) Left Service File, 4.) Left Service Since 1959 File, 5.) Relief Members to the Norfolk and Western Railroad Company 10/16/1964. Their subdivision by the company was apparently based upon dates and circumstances of employees' service, date of death, and federal government pension and retirement regulations. Because of the number of cards involved and the size of the file, it is impossible to determine the exact time periods covered by the files. Within each subseries, cards are arranged in alphabetical order by name of employee, and cards have been found for workers whose employment dates back to at least 1865. Membership in this insurance program was voluntary, so not all employees of the railroad will be documented by these cards even though coverage was system wide. Also, please note that none of the cards can be made available to the public unless the employee had been dead for at least twenty-five years. Information appearing on each set of cards includes the following:

Subseries 1: Deceased and Left Service File
Arranged alphabetically by name of employee. Contains index cards (5x8) that were printed prior to 1938 and which cover service by workers back to at least 1865. Data shown includes the names, places of birth, dates of birth, and occupations of the employees; the names of their father, mother, and if relevant spouse; the certificate numbers and the dates entitled to retirement; and their employment service records, that is, titles of postings held, division employed by, dates of entering service or changing jobs; and rates of pay. An occasional social security number is present as well. Supplemental cards contain "Disablement Records" that detail when and for how long workers were sick or injured; what the cause of disablement was; and if needed, the dates of death. Other information that might appear includes, the dates that the employees were last compensated for service dates of retirement, and particulars regarding whether they were granted and annuity under Railroad Retirement Act of 1937.

Subseries 2: Deceased and Left Service File
(* note: some of these cards are restricted
)
Arranged alphabetically by name of employee. Consists of index cards (5x8) that were printed prior to 1950 and which cover employment back to the early 1900's. The cards contain the same type of information found for Subseries 1. Some personnel cards originating from the New York Central Railroad Company also are present. Such cards do not have the VRD data but they do note dates when the individuals were off duty or had left service as well as the causes. Most of the employees found on the Subseries 2 cards appear to have been dead for at least twenty-five years. The dates of the employees deaths, however, are not always on the cards to verify this, and several employee cards were in fact found that listed dates of death as recently as 1970. The cards, therefore, cannot be made available without staff intervention.

Subseries 3: Left Service File

Arranged alphabetically by name of employee. Index cards (3x5) that cover service by workers dating back to at least the 1880's and which in some cases include the same employees found in Subseries 1. Data can vary with the card utilized but normally entries give the employees' names, divisions, occupations, dates of birth, length of service (years and months, and dates of death; the certificate numbers; and the dates that the benefits became effective. Older cards from the early 1900's also provide the workers' present ages and rates of pay (as of 1905-1910 usually); the dates of employment (exact date of entry and leaving service); average rates of monthly pay; and period of time on the relief fund rolls. Cards dating from the 1950's list the addresses of the persons; have space for recoding the dates of death; and contain references to supplemental pension plans, and railroad benefit numbers. As with Subseries 1 most of the workers documented on these cards died more than twenty-five years ago.

Subseries 4: Left Service Since 1959 File
(* note: some of these cards are restricted
)
Arranged alphabetically by name of employee. Index cards that were for the most partly printed prior to 1960 and include individuals who left service and as late as 1963. While some cards can be found for employees who started working for the railroad in the early 1900's most of the individuals documented in this series were hired during the 1940-1950 time period. All of the cards in this series are restricted for at least twenty years.

Subseries 5: Relief Members to Norfolk and Western Railroad company, October 16, 1964
(* note: some of these cards are restricted
)

Arranged alphabetically by name of employee. Contains index cards that are the same as those described under Subseries 4 and are subject to the same access restrictions.

Railroad employees

PA State Archives - Research Guides - PRR Voluntary Relief Enrollment Cards

If you need further assistance, you may contact an archivist at ra-statearchives@pa.gov