Keepers of the Light

ImageWillard Thompson recently sent me his new book Keepers of the Light: The History of Point Conception. Willard does a good job describing the keepers’ experience at Point Conception Light Station, an isolated post on the California coast.  I provided him with a list of keepers which he uses as an appendix. In the case of Point Conception, there was a principle keeper and three assistants so it’s a rather long list. (Coastal lights with fog signals needed a lot of personnel.) When putting together a keeper list in the National Archives, I generally start with the microfilm publication “Registers of Lighthouse Keepers, 1845 – 1912.” Finding keepers in the post-1912 period is not as straightforward.  Keeper’s logs generally provide keeper names if the keeper bothered to identify him- or herself.  The Archives collection has the logs of many lighthouse up until 1969.  Beyond that one can search in keeper reclassification files, correspondence, retirement cards, and census records to fill the gaps.  Letters from keepers are not common in the Archives collection.  There are some that serve as enclosures to letters from superintendents or district inspectors and engineers and a few survive in the district field records. I generally encourage descendants to obtain their ancestor’s personnel file from the Civilian Records Branch in St. Louis.

Available on Amazon – Keepers of the Light: The Story of the Point Conception Lighthouse

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