(By Grace Dumelle, originally published in the FOGCutter, Volume 8 Issue 4, Sept. 2004)
The American Federation of Musicians donated their old files to the music department at the Harold Washington Library Center, the flagship of the Chicago Public Library. Among the several pieces to this archival collection is a list of transfer and traveling musicians (partially processed). Another is minutes of the board of directors, who elected members at each meeting. The third part, and the most interesting to genealogists, is death files 1940 to circa 2000.
The death files are arranged in folders alphabetically by group of years. A person’s file usually contains:
- A Death certificate
- An original membership application (including what instruments the person played, day job at the time, home address, and if he or she ever worked for an organization on the union’s boycott list
- A Beneficiary card, listing names, addresses, and relationship to the member
- Correspondence from spouse or other beneficiary regarding death benefit.
- Member Status Report - a computer printout of information from the union’s records, including the legal name and stage name, date of election to the union, birth date, address, phone number, and Social Security number.