Ancestors Affected by a Disaster?



Whether man-made or something from Mother Nature, there can be any number of disasters over the decades that could have affected your ancestors. Gathering information about your family is not just names, dates and places, it is truly a quest to discover the narratives of our ancestors’ lives, even the sad and tragic times.

An online site named ‘Gendisasters‘ can assist you in learning about sure disasters from history. Newspapers, of course, are the number one resource, but that can be difficult checks pages and pages of newspapers. With ‘Gendisasters‘, they have a collection of such tragedies with when and where they happened.

On the upper right corner of the homepage, in blue, you can browse by the type of tragedy (train wreck, tornado, streetcar accident, etc), by a state name, a year or disasters in Canada. The site has disasters going back to 1755, but not every year has material. Many more recent years (last few decades) are covered. When you call up a year to browse, the town name where it occurred is in alphabetical order, followed by disaster and date.

The best part it is all searchable also by a person’s name. However, somehow that person would have been involved (injured, a rider, etc) to be in the newspaper. If you do find a surname, remember the event could have happened out of their hometown.

Here is an example of a fire in 1911 that nearly wiped out a town in Texas:

MANY HOUSES DESTROYED.

FIRE WIPES OUT BUSINESS DISTRICT OF WHITEWRIGHT, TEXAS — LOSS $300,000.

Whitewright, Tex., June 12, 1911 — After the biggest fire this town has ever experienced, wire service to outside points was restored about midnight. Forty-three business houses were destroyed, twenty-seven residences were consumed and many others damaged as the result of a blaze that started today from a burning trash pile in the rear of a store. Numerous barns and some warehouses were destroyed. The flames were fanned by a steady wind.
Total losses and insurance figures could not be given tonight, but the damage is probably $300,000 to $325,000.

Note the article also listed the owners and names of businesses destroyed and home burned.

A great addition, is that you can add any additional comments to the event, such as a full name for ancestors mentioned or if you have additional newspaper articles on it you can submit those.

Doing some research with ‘Gendisasters‘ on family hometowns and family surnames just could turn up some unknown information for your family tree. Some even have photos. Bookmark this site.

Photos: The Ruff building, a three-story structure at Fourth and Douglas in Sioux City, Iowa, collapsed killing several people in June 1918 and a train derailment in Guttenberg, Iowa, Oct. 11, 1934 with four killed and fourteen injured.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Find the Family Story

Juicy Family Tales

Write or Record Historic Family Events

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