Thursday, November 26, 2015

My Grandfather, William Cyril Hork, Worked on the Railroad: Northern Pacific Railway Company Personnel Files

A new (to me) database is on called “U.S., Northern Pacific Railway Company Personnel Files, 1890-1963.”  I was pretty excited because until this point, I have had no direct ancestors who worked for the railroad. I’ve been a huge railfan most of my life and I was pleasantly surprised to have my grandfather turn up in this database.

The Northern Pacific Railway Company was based out of Minnesota but had tracks that went west as far as the Pacific Ocean. My grandfather, William Cyril Hork, lived in Hamilton, Montana, which is in western Montana near the Idaho border.[1]

Northern Pacific Ry Co map; wikipedia
So what is this database all about? This is a “collection of personnel files from the Northern Pacific Railway Company…and includes company correspondence, job history, salary and promotion documents, leaves of absence, and more.”

So this is more than a database. It has digital images of the records! The employee records can include multiple pages. Each file has a file number. There was also a note that the items in the file were typically “in reverse chronological order, with the most recent pages appearing first. And not all pages will be indexed.” 

What got me to this database was the indexed entry for “Cyril Willis Hock.” Someone made a correction and the entry for “Cvril Willis Hork” was also included.[2] 

Entry for Cyril Willis Hock/Hork

The name of my grandfather was different than I expected. I knew him as William Cyril Hork, but he was often Cyril in early census records and in local newspaper accounts. His military records also used the name Cyril Willis Hork. The locality matched the area in which he lived. But the final piece, that his mother was Mrs. Julia Hock (or Hork). It was enough to have me click through to the images.

This entry indicated there were ten images. There are two places to click, the one that was indexed and the packet cover. Clicking on the packet cover brought me to the first image of the file. The indexed view was the second image in the packet. 

"Northern Pacific Railway Company Personnel Files, 1890-1963,"  File 144100, Cyril Willis Hork
Once viewing the image, I could see his surname was Hork in many of the images, but I could also see how an indexer would view it has Hock, because the indexed page had the names handwritten instead of being typed, but at the very top, the name “Hock, Cyril Willis” was typed.

The indexed page was the application for employment. I’m still trying to determine if Cyril filled out the form himself or if the agent, S.R. Wilson, had. It is possible the top portion until the place of applicant signature was filled out by Cyril.

Between the cover page and the application, I found out he worked as a warehouseman in the Hamilton Station from 1 Jul 1922 until 19 Dec 1922; almost 6 months. The reason for dismissal was reduction in force. 
Cover, File 144100, Cyril Willis Hork
It was a shame he was released in December. He had been married less than a month, having married Anna Marie Sullivan on 30 November 1922 in Butte, Montana.[3]

One of the other records in the packet showed his previous work history. Except for being in the U.S. Navy for 18 months, his work history revealed that none of his previous jobs lasted more than a few months.
Employment History, File 144100, Cyril Willis Hork
There was more to the packet, mostly about his military service, but  I’ll save for another day.

[1] “Map of Northern Pacific’s route circa 1900,” (; citing image from the Library of Congress map collection, call number G4126.P3 1900 .L55 RR 502; originally from the Fourth Annual Report of the northern Pacific Railway company, for the Fiscal Year ending June 30, 1900.
[2] "Northern Pacific Railway Company Personnel Files, 1890-1963," file 144100, Cyril Willis Hork , digital images, ( accessed 25 Nov 2015); Original data Personnel Files, circa 1909–1960s, Personnel Dept. records, Northern Pacific Railway Company records, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota.
[3] Silver Bow County, Montana, Marriages, record A-14551, William C. Hork to Anna M. Sullivan, 30 Nov 1922.

Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Suzanne Gorrell, My Trails into the Past. All Rights Reserved.

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