Family Tree Friday: The National Youth Administration (1935-1943)

This week’s post comes to you from guest blogger Jennifer Dryer, who works in the National Declassification Center at the National Archives.  Jennifer is completing a cross-training assignment with the Archives I Research Support Branch, where she has been working on reference relating to the upcoming 1940 Census release.  Some questions on the 1940 census relate to relief efforts during the Great Depression.  In this post, Jennifer looks at one of those New Deal Agencies, the National Youth Administration.

1940 Census: col. 22: “Was [this person]  at work on, or assigned to, public EMERGENCY WORK (WPA, NYA, CCC, etc.) during week of March 24-30? (Y or N)

Youth on relief in Haward, California, April 17, 1940. Still Pictures, National Archives. ARC ID 532121.


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the National Youth Administration (NYA) as one of his New Deal agencies, to provide aid to a country trying to lift itself out of the Great Depression. President Roosevelt’s New Deal agencies also included the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), but neither of them addressed the problem facing the nation’s unemployed youth. The WPA provided public works jobs for unskilled workers, but did not initially provide training in new jobs skills. The typical WPA worker was the head of household of relief families, which sometimes included women. The CCC typically provided unemployed, unmarried young men ages 18-25 (but not women) on the relief rolls work constructing state parks and other conservation projects.

"Miss Juanita E. Gray learns to operate a lathe machine at the Washington, DC NYA War Production and Training Center." Still Pictures, National Archives. ARC ID 535809.

NYA created a means for young men and women between 16 and 24 who had finished school and were unemployed to work and develop skills that they could use to continue working once they finished the program. Their work ranged from building bridges, schools, and furniture for schools to nursing and junior clerks. Others worked in agricultural and industry.

Original caption: "Sunshine and knowledge to the less fortunate through NYA." Young woman tutoring a younger girl, ca. 1936. Still Pictures, National Archives. ARC ID 197140.

Participants in the NYA accompanied their work with studies related to their jobs, which allowed them to prepare for things such as the civil service examinations and homemaking. The most important thing provided to many NYA participants was job experience.

"Work experience in aviation for NYA boys": Two youth working on the propellor section of a plane, ca. 1938. Still Pictures, National Archives. ARC ID 195861.

Further textual and photographic records concerning the National Youth Administration  and other New Deal agencies can be found in Archives II in College Park (RG 119), the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, and the Tugwell Room in the Greenbelt branch of the Prince Georges County public library. The library in Archives II also has a number of books dealing specifically with the NYA.

If you had relatives who worked for the NYA during the Depression, these records will provide more insight into their experiences!

3 thoughts on “Family Tree Friday: The National Youth Administration (1935-1943)

  1. Thanks so much for this post! I just found my dad was working in the NYA in the 1940 census– in a library — which is where I work now! Never knew this!

  2. Need some help with an artifact. in the 1940’s my grandfather was digging in a flower bed in lavillta and found a cannonball will working with a teenage program called the NYA for years was told this story was not true from historians and the alamo people until I found the paper clipping across the street from the court house. and not on Micro slides at the library.My grandfather passed in 89 and my grandmother just passed this year. but for 12 years I have hit brick wall with no information on where this cannonball could be. After I got out the military in 2008 I have been on all kinds of paths. and was told I would not find the exact one he held. That’s fine but just for our family to get recognition for it. I was really on the path in 2019 but covid. so now I just need help on anything that could help

  3. I think that I found information about an uncle of mine that in 1940 census at age 34 he worked for National Youths Administration.
    Job title spelled out as, Samperimer. What is that?
    Any information would help and thank you.

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