Need Help Categorizing the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad

+2 votes

I need some help in properly creating a category for the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad. I linked it to its Wikipedia entry.

I've looked at a lot of the railroad categories and quite frankly they seem mixed up to me. Some are directly under CategoriesUnited States Railroads . Others are nested deep under state or city structures that don't seem to come under the broad category of United States Railroads at all.

One question is whether to categorize by where a particular company owning all or part of the railroad is incorporated or by the area the system covered or by railroads generally and then by narrower geographic areas if possible.

As far as I can tell, the head company for the Rock Island lines was incorporated in Illinois.  Incorporation is done at the state level.  While a company may have a headquarters in a particular city or even in another state, it is incorporated in one state. 

But the railroads often were the result of partnerships and business arrangements between multiple companies. The Rock Island line had some of these. It also bought other rail companies over its history.

As for the geographic scope of the Rock Island line, it covered from Chicago to Denver on its own and through agreements out to the California coast, from northern Minnesota to Galvaston, Texas. It covered most of the country from Chicago to the Rockies and the northern to the southern boarder at the height of its operation.

So how should I create the category for the Rock Island? (I really can't believe it hasn't been created already)

WikiTree profile: Robert Friske
in Policy and Style by Mary Jensen G2G6 Mach 9 (92.8k points)
edited by Mary Jensen
The Rock Island Line is a mighty fine line!  I was born in Rock Island County and rode that line.

3 Answers

+1 vote
Best answer

This is much more difficult than I would have thought, and I created almost all of the existing railroad categories.

If you look carefully at many of the categories you will see that the hierarchy attempts to duplicate the evolution of each railroad.  This requires a great deal of work for each railroad as they were merged and combined over the years.

It seems that the most useful category is the railroad name and the town where it was functioning - it is at this level that we can have multiple profiles that have some connection.  Knowing that two people worked for the same railroad but lived in different states is not very useful, having several individuals in the same location working for the same railroad is very interesting.  I have found cases where several family members all worked for the same railroad at the same location.

So the hierarchy is railroad name in location, then railroad in state and the higher level categories depend on the specific railroad and each requires a great deal of research - more than most managers will consider.  

My suggestion is to add the low level categories as needed for your profiles and then if you really want to learn and work on railroad history move on up - but I do not think that there is much value in the high level categories.
by Philip Smith G2G6 Pilot (272k points)
selected by Patricia Roche
Thank you for your insight.  It will take me a while to think it through as I'm going out of town tomorrow for a week or so and won't be online much.

But here is why I am interested.  The family I'm currently working on came to the United States through Baltimore and then to Chicago and Blue Island, Illinois. From there, most of the men in the family followed the railroad and the railroad work and seemed mostly to be working on building the Rock Island line at first and then later generations working for the Rock Island. So far, I know they followed the Rock Island on their eventual migrations through Illinois and then Iowa, a corner of Nebraska and on down to Kansas.  

They were Danish and named Jensen which was very common. Their favorite given names were Nels, Lars, Alfred and Thomas, all very common Danish given names.  Sometimes, the way I've identified that I have the right one is by proximity to a brother or uncle and sometimes the key has been their work on or for the Rock Island line.  But they were not men with a habit of staying put, so its hard to put a specific town to their association with the Rock Island line.  One was a brakeman who rode the lines for most of his life until he got too old and then settled down in Illinois.

I believe, but have not yet been able to establish that the family may have been one of those actually recruited by the railroads to immigrate and either work for the railroads or buy railroad lands. I've located railroad promotional material which would fit but nothing specific to link this family. I may eventually get it when I get to the first deed in Kansas and find out if they bought railroad land or some other land. But so far I don't have the definitive link.


I think you have a situation where the railroad category could be useful.  If I were working on the family and I knew that an individual worked for the railroad and I knew they lived in a town I would add that town and with the railroad as a category - I would not worry about the higher level categories.  I would see it as a case where you are assigning the men to a company and their base was where they lived.  If you find another at the same town great, if not you have not spent too much extra time.

Here is an example - not railroad, but a place of work - Category: Jahncke Shipyard, Madisonville, Louisiana all of the men that worked Jahncke were related - in this case the video tells the story of the work and the location.  The same kind of thing can be done for any job, work or railroad if you find that it makes sense.

Including a different line of my family from Madisonville. I know the shipyard well and will be near there next week.  I have no problem with the shipyard because it stayed in one place so I can figure out how to create a category for it. 

My problem is that there is no category yet for the Rock Island company, at least not one that I could find. If there were I would just use it and not worry about all the places.  We need to create a category for the Rock Island company. What is the proper name.  Would it be Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad?  The name seems to have changed somewhat over time as they merged with or took over other railroads.  

Unlike the the Jahncke Shipyard, the Rock Island wasn't just located in one place, and I want to be able to connect together the ones in different places, or to use a more overarching category to link them.  I have one man who worked for the Rock Island and his family lived in Rock Island, then later in Kansas City and Saint Joseph with the expansion of the line and as he got older he became a brakeman and traveled most of the time.  His family settled in Council Bluff, Iowa at that time. All his working life, he worked in different positions for the Rock Island, but definitely not in the same place or really in any fixed place.  

So do I need to figure out all the places he worked for the Rock Island and create categories for all of them? I was hoping we could create one category for the company and put all the family members who worked for the company in the same company category and see how people and families lives and movement around the country was influenced by the railroad.

I just don't know enough to figure out what the right name would be for the Rock Island railroad company.

0 votes
How about American Railroads serving the Great Lakes?
+1 vote

I have created a category for Robert and added it to his profile.  We know he lived in Cook County and worked there so I have set up the railroad in Cook County,

I added the higher categories as well.  Yes, railroads are not in one place, but people are when they work or at least they have a home office.  I think it is best to use the home office location as the category.  If the person moved but still worked for the same company then there should be two categories one for each location.

When you have the next person working for the Rock Island let me know and I'll set that one up then we will start to see if it can all fit together.
by Philip Smith G2G6 Pilot (272k points)

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