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I have an ancestor whom I've been told helped construct the Panama Canal. I have done some searching online but have not been able to find any personnel records or other data that would help me corroborate the claim.

My understanding is that the Panama Canal itself houses these records, but in order to access them you have to actually go there, which I'm disinclined to do.

Is there an online repository of this information to which I can gain access?

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I too have an ancestor (British) associated with Panama - he had a son born there in about 1863 so am very keen to see responses to your question. – PolyGeo Oct 10 '12 at 1:30
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Here's an update. I'm a FamilySearch wiki contributor. Canal Zone Employment records have been digitized and are searchable in the FamilySearch website. A description of these records is available at the FamilySearch wiki:

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Wow, this is huge - thank you!! Within 60 seconds I was able to find the specific record I was looking for. – fbrereto Apr 2 '15 at 18:24
Welcome to Genealogy.SE! – lejonet Apr 2 '15 at 20:58

I am an archivist who works at the National Archives in St. Louis managing the personnel records that are available for public research...including those related to Panama Canal Company employees. Although not every employee has an Official Personnel Record, you may request a search by following the information found on the following website. (None of the records have been digitized).

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That's about as authoritative as it comes - thank you Ashley! – fbrereto Jan 16 '13 at 17:03
How cool is that! – GeneJ Jan 16 '13 at 23:39

Robert Ellis has an article Looking for an Ancestor in the Panama Canal Zone, 1904–1914 and when I did a further search under his name there is a website Obtaining Former Panama Canal Zone Documentation with Mr. Ellis's email address. If those two websites don't help, I would suggest emailing him.

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There's a listing of sources for various records of the former Canal Zone at the website of the US Embassy in Panama.

It mentions, for example, that the personnel records are at NPRC St Louis (although that doesn't seem to have much if anything online, and various privacy rules for getting copies).

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