Riding The Rails: Discovering the Hobos and Vagabonds in Your Family History

Following the completion of the transcontinental railroad, an army of itinerant laborers descended upon America, supplying the manpower and muscle that helped fuel our country’s industrial growth. Your ancestor may have been one of these men. This presentation will cover the history of hobos and records that you can use to tell their stories.

Hobos, tramps, and vagabonds, collectively known as itinerant workers, constituted a population of close to 100,000 people. They comprised a grouping of individuals who traveled and worked across the Midwest, Great Plains, and Mountain West between the years 1870 and 1940. This presentation will introduce the audience to the history of this subculture using documents like tramp ledgers, letters, and diaries and assist them in locating the hobos in their families and telling their stories.