When Disasters Strike, the Genealogy Researcher Cleans Up

Disasters are just awful. There are so many–floods, crashes, fires, hurricanes, business failures, medical emergencies. This list goes on. BUT, disasters are recorded. They are covered in so many ways. This makes them a terrific thing in an odd way. The genealogy researcher will understand…

The genealogy researcher can tell you that disasters happen and that families are affected by them.

Avalanches, Earthquakes, Floods. Hurricanes and Tornadoes. Accidents. Sudden drops in fortunes. Shooting deaths.

Any family history researcher who watches the news knows. It is all simply awful.

But there is something good about disasters: they are recorded. To be blunt, disasters can be amazing for the genealogy researcher.

Family history researchers will find that certain family businesses are in the business of disasters: firefighters, emergency service personnel, military, medical. This is also great for the family history.

There are lots of records and details about these businesses. Many of them are governmental. So, you’ll find records, galore!  For families with ancestors and members in the emergency services business, some of the records that may provide lots of details include:

  • Local fire documents and logs.
  • Municipal staffing records.
  • Police documents.
  • Military records.
  • Medical records

A genealogist may find that there are also the other types of family history disasters—the acts of nature, medical emergencies, war, pestilence and the whole host of biblical issues.  Records of these may be found in:

  • Newspaper accounts.
  • Television reports.
  • Military records.
  • Medical records.
  • Government documents.
  • Legal records.

For the genealogy researcher, these disasters are the facts that add to the family history.

If you are a family history researcher, you’ll inevitably hear stories. I have. My great aunt survived the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in the early 1900s. That was the disaster where young immigrant girls working in deplorable conditions were trapped and killed as a horrible fire burned through a factory on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The details and documents are so plentiful. That was a big disaster! Lots to find.

My ex-husband’s grandfather was said to have survived the great earthquake in San Francisco in the early 1900s. So many newspaper reports and more!

When ancestors were firefighters, their records are preserved.

When ancestors were firefighters, their records are preserved.

A friend of mine’s plane was hijacked. She or her family’s genealogists certainly can get government documents, newpaper reports, maybe even reported first hand accounts. It is all there!

The professional genealogist knows that disaster lurks. How does the genealogy researcher verify a disaster when it happens or happened?

Looking on line is helpful, too.  The genealogy researcher will find that the website gendisasters.com has a whole slew of unfortunate events. Genealogists may like that train wrecks are covered on the website Danger Ahead–historic railway disasters. There are lots of sites for Airplane crash histories. The plagues like the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 have entire websites dedicated to records, news and details. Hijackings have websites that detail everything about them. Volcanos have their own.

The topics of disasters are fascinating for many, including for the genealogy researcher.

Some genealogists may be fascinated by the law. When disasters strike, there are often accompanying lawsuits. There are government records that call for genealogy researcher to look at the federal level either on line or in repositories around the country. There are criminal cases with records stored in courthouses at the municipal, local, regional and federal level.

There are so many ways for the genealogist to find disaster details. There are universities such as Millersville in Kansas and University of Delaware with Disaster Research and analysis centers. The genealogy researcher may even search through The International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters (IJMED) which is published by the International Research Committee on Disasters, which is RC 39 of the International Sociological Association (ISA).

Take the fireworks industry. It could be said that that industry is an accident waiting to happen. And it was: entire branches of these families have been cut down by badly timed blasts or explosions in the factory. Almost every American fireworks family has at least one of those stories. The genealogy researcher will find that newspaper accounts are dependable ways to find the details, dates and people involved.

The Grucci family, America’s fireworks experts, lost several reigning members in a huge explosion at the factory in 1983.  One hundred nearby homes were damaged and the owner’s 42 year old son and 19 year old niece were killed. The event was so stunning that the genealogy researcher will find that every local and regional newspaper reported on it.

Did you hear stories of an ancestor surviving something awful? Was there a family story about a storm, crash, disease or such? Let our RecordClick professional genealogists get the details for you and more. Contact us to have our genealogy researchers begin and/or enhance your family’s story.