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?


5 Answers 5


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:


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).



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.


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).


This is tangential to the original question, but of interest to those whose relatives worked in the Canal. You may want to read the book, "Blue Book of Panama," published in 1914, in Panama. It was intended as a commercial directory / publicity book for Panama sponsored by the United Fruit Company to attract investors to Panama. However, the book also has a wealth of photos and short biographies of people who worked and lived in the Canal Zone at that time. It is bilingual and covers the entire country. You can download a copy from FamilySearch:



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