FDR’s Alphabet Soup: Records from the Great Depression

Cath Madden Trindle


(Farm Credit Administration)  1933



Paul Erickson, owner of forty acres of land in Yuba County, California. He is working on his tractor. He has diversified fruit farm with a federal land bank loan and production credit loan. He does as much of his own pruning, thinning and picking as possible and works out in order to supplement his income. He has paid income tax in past years but blames low prices of farm products for his decreased income

The Farm Credit Administration was created in 1933 to make long-term and short-term credit available to farmers and to farmers’ cooperative marketing and purchasing organizations. It assumed duties of Federal Farm Board which had been established in 1929

The origins of the FCA date to 1916, when the Federal Farm Loan Bureau, the Federal Farm Loan Board, and Federal Land Banks were established to meet the needs of farmers in for liberal credit and low interest rates. Congress and Presidents Taft and Wilson took up the cause of farmers, farm editors and bankers who sought a system that would facilitate the expansion of credit to the farmers that needid it most. A series of commissions were sent to study cooperatives that had been set up in France and Germany. The proposals of the commissions resulted in the passage of the Hollis-Bulkley Bill (Federal Farm Loan Act) of 17 Jul 1916. Twelve regional farm land banks were set up, and a system for extending credit established. Most of the original capital was supplied by the government. The intention was that the borrowing farmers would ultimately own the banks.

In 1923 the system was extended with 12 intermediate credit banks set up with government money, one in each region.

Just six years later the Depression hit hard. With prices of farm products falling and the value of farms declining delinquencies increased. In 1932 the government invested $125 million to bolster the land banks through bonds, again bcoming the majority stockholder. All of the existing federal agricultural-credit organizations were unified into one agency, the Federal Credit Administration, by executive order in 1933. Congress subsequentally authorized the FCA to extend the system of farm-mortgage credit. Funds were made available for loans on easy terms for first or second mortgages to debtors whose collateral was so low in value or so encumbered by debt as to make refinancing by the land banks unfeasible. The FCA was also authorized to establish 12 production credit corporations and banks for cooperatives. The result was a centralized source of farm credit.

In 1939 the FCA was absorbed into the Dept. of Agriculture. In 1953 the FCA once again became an independent agency. Its authority was later realigned by the Farm Credit Act of 1971.

If your ancestors owned a farm in the early 20th century or during the Depression there is a chance that they had a mortgage with the Federal Land Banks or thorugh the Farm Credit Administration. Even if you can not find individual records for them, understanding the economics of the times can add a sense of reality to your genealogical records.

Learn more at …

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Weekly Update

Nov 7 – Vallejo-Benicia Genealogy Society – Vital Records - Check website or contact Program Chair for more information.

Orange line 3

Announcing the 2014 seminar to be held in conjunction with the CSGA Board Meeting (held at lunch) ……

San Joaquin Genealogical Society


Sponsored by

California State Genealogical Alliance


The Jacoby Center for Public Service and Civic Leadership, University of the Pacific


8:30 am to 3:00 pm

UOP Campus, Biological Sciences Building; 3312 North Kensington Way, Stockton



“Family Stories: Genealogy Beyond Just The Dates”  by Linda Serna

Tell your family stories! Linda Serna shows how your documents and pictures
can be supplemented with other information to round out the full story. Linda
uses three examples to illustrate how you can do this: an ordinary family, a family who intersects with history, and an unusual life. As part of the research team for PBS’s “Genealogy Roadshow” and Vice President of Programs for the Orange County Genealogical Society, professional genealogist Linda Serna
shares from her thirty years of researching and writing family stories.

“Fun Tools To Help Genealogists Work Smarter”  by Tim Cox

Maximize your use of available technology to organize your genealogy research
with this informative and entertaining session by Tim Cox. Tim serves as Education and Events Coordinator for the California Genealogical Society
and Library and has been a family historian and genealogist for more than
twenty five years. An APG member living in San Francisco, Tim speaks frequently on technology and organization.

 “Researching Your Mexican Ancestors” by Letty Rodella

Currently, over thirty percent of Californians claim Mexican heritage. While
many of those ancestors left traces of their lives in documents located in the
United States, eventually this genealogical quest leads to research in Mexico.
Letty Rodella has spent thirteen years pursuing her Hispanic ancestry to
findings dating from the 1500s. As President of the Society of Hispanic Historical and Ancestral Research, she works to educate others in how to research their Hispanic roots.


“Reconstructing Family Information When You Start With Almost Nothing – A Case Study” by Janice Sellers

Who hasn’t faced a dilemma like this? Professional genealogist Janice Sellers draws from her thirteen years on staff at Oakland FamilySearch Library and her focus on assisting genealogists with challenges of ethnic research to present this case study. With twenty years background in the publishing industry, Janice also serves as editor of The Galitzianer, a quarterly newsletter focused on Jewish research; The Baobab Tree, journal of the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California, and ZichronNote, journal of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, as well as her own blog, Ancestral Discoveries.

 The Seminar is Free but Registration is Required to Receive Speakers’ Handout Packet

 Bring a lunch, or dine at one of the many nearby restaurants including the cafeteria on the UOP campus.

Register early – Seating is limited to 180.  REGISTER NOW

If you have questions or need to register by phone, please call Sheri Fenley at (209) 373-6847 or send email to  sherifenley@gmail.com


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FDR’s Alphabet Soup: Records from the Great Depression

Cath Madden Trindle



(Farm Security Administration -Resettlement Act of 1935)



FSA Farm Security Administration: Arkansas squatter for three years in California near BakeFSAfield, California: photo by D. Lange, ca. 193? –  ARC Identifier 196259
Item from Collection FDR-PHOCO: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library Public Domain Photographs, 1882 – 1962

The Farm Security Administration was set up in 1937 to aid tenant farmers and to carry out rehabilitation work of the Resettlement Administration.    The FSA established temporary housing for Dust Bowl refugees from Oklahoma and Arkansas who had migrated to California in hopes of finding employment. In total, the FSA loaned more than a billion dollars to farmers and set up many camps for destitute migrant workers. 

The FSA succeeded the Resettlement Administration, which had been established in 1935 to administer rural rehabilitation and land programs begun in 1933 under the Subsistence Homesteads Division of the Department of the Interior and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.


Records of the FSA are held in regional NARA facilities.  Some have online indexes


In California, Riverside has 12 cf of records dated 1934-1944 for Cochise, Mohave, and Pima County offices, Arizona, and Orange County office, California. The records relate to paid-in-full rural rehabilitation loans and include Farm and Home Management Plans submitted by loan applicants. They contain information about the farm family’s assets, expenses, food consumption, income, and production.  In San Bruno, 93 cf cover Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. The records relate to construction and operation of migratory labor camps, farm loans, relief to low-income rural families, and rural resettlement and rehabilitation.  There is correspondence, newsletters, architectural drawings, maps and photographs included with the textual files.   The NARA facility at College Park has a collection of still pictures.

The records can add detail on individuals, families and the camps in which they lived.   

labor camp

May 1936 Arvin [Weekly reports, Thomas Collins, camp manager] RF-CF-16 918-01, 05/1936 – 05/1936
Kern County Migratory Camp

























In 1946 the Farmers Home Administration (FHA) was established within the Department of Agriculture to succeed the FSA.   The FHA provides small farmers with credit to construct or repair homes, improve farming operations, or become farm owners, and gives individual guidance in farm and home management.

Besides NARA look for records in university, state and local collections.



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