Since the current political broohaha has included the bit that Senator John McCain was born to a Naval officer father serving in the U.S. territory of the Panama Canal Zone (and so is he qualified to be president under our Constitution?), I got to thinking about records from this area.
Robert Ellis wrote a dandy piece in Prologue, Fall 2007, Vol. 39, No. 3 (accessible from the National Archives website). He stated that according to the 1912 census of the Panama Canal zone that the population was 62,000 and 36,000 were unmarried men. Some 40 nationalities were listed. That's a lot of ancestors, I thought.
Records of the Panama Canal Zone (Record Group 185) might contain genealogical information as they are the district court records (which is Record Group 21). Ellis also explained that court records are a good source for this place and this time for grievances and problems then, just like today, had to be dealt with. This business resulted in criminal files and civil files.
One interesting database Ellis mentioned is the Index to the Gorgas Hospital Mortuary Registers, 1906-1991, which contains 26,213 names of U.S. military personnel and civilian employees.
The Prologue article was eight pages long and if you have an ancestor who disappeared in the 1904-1914 decade, perhaps he went to make his fortune digging the Panama Canal.