The month has flown by again and I don’t know about where you are but we are having a hard time getting spring to arrive. It is warm today and the trees have popped and birds are singing so I hope we here in the Midwest have at least a few days of spring weather. (We usually go from cold to 90 degrees)
But spring does bring its share of weather, rains and winds and it can bring about natural disasters. We have swollen rivers here and flooding and today I have a guest blogger from the HistoricNaturalDisasters.com, website. These guys are Ohio history buffs and the story is a good example of how our ancestor’s environment would have affected their lives and perhaps will tell you why they did some of the things they did. Check out their site and see if you can help identify any photos.
Speaking of Ohio, I just returned from the Ohio State Conference in Cincinnati and would like to welcome all the folks I met there. It was a great conference.
David Chambers and the Great Dayton Flood
By Jeff Satterly and Robert Muhlhauser
The week of March 21st through March 26th marks the anniversary of one of the most devastating natural disasters ever to hit the United States. It was during this week 100 years ago, in the year 1913, that a system of ravaging storms swept across the American Midwest and parts of New England. The storms brought with them high-speed winds and torrential rains, causing tornadoes and massive flooding. By the time the storms had passed through the area, they had caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage. The week of storming killed hundreds of people and left thousands more homeless.
Oversaturated watersheds like the Greater Miami in Ohio swelled with rain water, and their runoff filled the streams and rivers of the Midwest to overflowing. The intense pressure of the rising waters broke through dams, bridges and levees as if they were twigs. The raging flood waters swallowed entire towns and cities.
The Great Dayton Flood of 1913 brought about countless personal stories of heroism, tragedy and loss, but one story that stands out as particularly powerful is the story of the Chambers family. Two of David Chambers’ grandchildren related the stirring but tragic tale of their grandfather’s heroism to 1913flood.com. These women’s story tells of a 24-year-old father of three, a young man whose valiant actions in the wake of the Great Flood saved numerous lives.
The Chambers lived in North Dayton, in a home that was elevated about the level of the flood waters. When David saw the widespread damage the flood had caused to the city, he selflessly chose to leave the safety of his home, climbing into the family’s 16-person boat and rowing it out into the flood waters. David delivered supplies to victims all over the Riverdale area, and managed to save the lives of more than 150 Dayton residents. Tragically, David’s heroism ended up costing him his own life. When a stray log struck the side of his boat, David was tossed overboard, where he ultimately died in the flood waters. The death of her husband left David’s wife, Stella, on her own to raise three daughters, all of whom were under the age of seven. During a period of financial instability, Stella was forced to place the girls in an orphanage. In the end, however, the girls were reunited with their mother. David was buried in the flood section of Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery.
(photo 134 W. Fourth Dayton, Ohio 1913)
The Great Dayton Flood finally came to an end on the 26th of March. By the time the flood was over, the city of Dayton had suffered widespread and significant damage, and the city’s population had been hit with numerous deaths and displacements. 14 square miles of the city were now covered with a blanket of water, and some 20,000 homes had been completely destroyed. In all, the flood ended up costing the city of Dayton nearly $100 million worth of damage, a sizable sum which would amount to a whooping $2 billion in today’s dollars. More than 360 people had been killed in the flood, and an estimated 65,000 people were left homeless. It took the city more than a year to completely clean up the damage, and it was over a decade before Dayton’s economy returned to the levels it enjoyed before the flood hit.
(photo 134 W. Fourth today)
Thanks so much to Kathy Wurth for letting us share a piece of this historical project on Family Tree Tours blog. We’re humbled by the interest in this project, and we really hope you enjoyed this snippet of history!
We’d also like to thank some of the great archives and archivists who have done so much to work to help preserve the amazing history of the 1913 flood, including the Dayton Metro Library and historian Trudy Bell . The amount of history compiled at these two websites is truly amazing. Lastly, thanks to Jason from www.insurancetown.com, who lent us some of the resources we used to help prepare content for the web and publish our blog, and inspired our Mapping History Contest.
Don’t forget to check out Historical Disasters.com for more images, and for information on our Mapping History Contest to help us figure out the locations pictured in historic photos from 1913 and you could win $100!
Irish Research and Famine Video.
I recently taught a class for my local genealogical society on Irish Research Techniques. As those of you who have Irish ancestors know how difficult it is to find their records and/or hometowns, we are always anxious to learn new tips or tricks. I showed some websites that have indexes from Ireland’s County Heritage Centers where you can check birth, marriage and death records. We also checked others that have free access to the Griffith’s Valuation, the tax survey taken between 1847 -1864, which is helpful since most Irish censuses taken during this time period has been destroyed.
There were a couple sites that had some emigration databases you can search for when your ancestor would have left. One of them is on the website, www.dunbrody.com which is the page for the 1845 Emigrant Ship exhibit in New Ross, Ireland. On our research trip last year we visited this exhibit and were able to see what the conditions were like on this small ship, sometimes when you stand in a spot that holds such history you can feel your ancestor’s story, maybe comprehend a little of what they must have went through. I recently watched a video that really brought home what our Irish ancestors went through during those Famine years and I recommend it highly to you.
The story is in the Spring of 1849, a coffin ship called Hannah, carrying 180 Irish emigrants fleeing Ireland’s potato famine; hit an ice reef in the strait near Cape Ray, off the coast of Newfoundland. The captain, a 23 year-old Englishman, took flight in the only lifeboat, leaving his passengers to either drown or freeze to death. Seventeen hours later, the survivors were rescued by another famine ship, the Nicaragua. The video is a Canadian production of descendants of these survivors who travel the route their ancestors did and “feel” their story by being there. I’ve read many books and watched other things about the Great Famine but for some reason this really hit me as to what the horrors actually were and made me all the more determined to learn more about my Irish ancestors life during this time and what happened to the ones left behind. Sometimes we have tunnel vision on our research and are only interested in that next document find, but it is good to stop and realize these names and dates were people and they laughed and cried and suffered like all humans and they want us to know their story.
See the video on You Tube. You can go to www.youtube.com and search on Famine and Shipwreck Hannah, the video should come up. It is the 44 minute one. You can also try this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VcU6xmqHjoQ
Good hunting and I hope you “feel” this video like I did.
Happy New Year! Already in the middle of the first month, can you believe it? Time is going fast and now is the time to start thinking of travel plans for the spring or summer. I wanted to talk a bit about our upcoming trip to the Northwest of Germany in May. One of our outings on this trip will be to visit with members of the Osnabrück Genealogical Society.
We have the opportunity to visit their library and we usually have one of the members give us a lecture on their Society, emigration from the area and the problem of researching in this area due to farm names. If you have an ancestor from up this way, you may be surprised to learn once you get back into the church books that your family surname could have been something completely different. I will explain more about that perhaps in another blog post. But what I wanted to tell you about today is the Osnabrück Society’s re-designed website. Of course it is in German but if you have Google Chrome web browser you can get it translated but sometimes it is better to view in the original German because the translator may translate a German hometown name into two English words. So that is why I wanted to give you some direction through the site.
First off look under Verein and then Bibliothek – this will show you a picture of their library (where we visit) and it also says that the members of the society have transcribed over 38 Church books from the Osnabrück area and 32 local heritage book are available here.
Under Datenbanken the first link is Kirchbuchen (church books) - This then lists the church book indexes or transcriptions they have in the library.
Some translations of what is on the page: (Kartei – card index – Abschrift – copies – Index –index
Taufen means Baptisms, Trauungen- Weddings, Beerdigungen – Funerals
Second, under Datenbanken is Ortsfamilienbücher – click on this and it will show you what towns they have some Ortsfamilienbüch for. These are family register books, (from church books or civil records) which list families and links them together back through all dates listed.
Third, under Datenbanken is Höfe – click on this and this list the Farm owners names in different Parishes. First column lists Farm Name – second column tells how they owned it, which means:
Vollerbe – means full heir
Halberbe – half heir
Erbkotter – Cottager heir
Markkotter – Mark cottager (mark is common owned land)
Kirchhöfer – I suppose means church farm
Third column is who the land lord was or where they lived.
Finally under Datenbanken is Kirchspiele. This lists parishes and shows pictures and names of the Church. The data shown to the right are the church book years they are missing.
Under Publikationens – Vereinsnachrichten is a list of their quarterly publications (PDF’s)
Bücher, Schriften und CD’s – lists books and CD’s for sale.
Karten – shows maps of the area during different time periods.
Make sure to check out the page under LINKS – these are homepages of members and/or family names from this Northwest area. Some are in English.
Under Links – Vereins are lists of genealogy clubs.
Regionen – are different links for societies or homepages of genealogists from the Region around Osnabrueck.
Datenbanken – more links for genealogy sites.
Nachbarvereine – neighboring societies.
So, hopefully this will help you navigate the site and help you in your research. I hope it inspires you to want to travel with us to visit this beautiful area of Germany. For more information on this trip click here. http://familytreetours.com/northwest-germany-tour/
Here is a link for a video of pictures from our past five years of Heritage tours. Check it out you may see yourself!
We spent a day in the lovely town of Freiburg, which is in very southern Germany. Our first stop was to the Staatsarchiv Freiburg. We had a wonderful overview of the Archive by a Herr Strauss. He had
prepared a great lecture and showed us how to navigate their website by showing us what is available online (Baden church book duplicates back to 1810 are online) and of course their emigrant database. He also explained that Baden-Wuerttemberg has 4 administrative districts and there is a Staatarchiv for each of them plus a couple of other misc.
Archives. They are located in Freiburg, Tübingen, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart and Sigmaringen.
Here is the link for the main site for the archives: http://www.landesarchiv-bw.de/web/48823 I would open this in Google Chrome so that it translates it or put the link in Google translate so you can read the pages. Or I think there may be an English button on the top row but I’m not sure if that does all pages. Here is link for the newest addition of Northern Baden online church books:
Herr Strauss told us to find these Archive locations on a map and whatever is the closest to where your ancestor was born that is where you should start. It doesn’t do any good to write to an archive that is in southern Baden if your people were from the north of Baden. Of course the most interesting link they have is the Baden-Wuerttemberg emigrant database. Try this at: www.auswanderer-bw.de We then were taken through some of the stacks in the Archive. Previously I
had found some of my ancestors in the emigrant database and although I had sent away to Freiburg for my ancestor’s records, I was able to see the original emigrant documents for my family. These emigrant records are some of the most interesting to us genealogists and these are kept at these Staatarchives. So if you find your family in the database there will be an emigrant ID # and it will tell you what archives the documents are kept in. You can write that Archive and give them the ID # and you can order your families’ papers.
So after our tour of the Archive we stopped for lunch and then did a tour of Freiburg with the Black Forest Girl. She was in character and costume of a young girl from the Black
Forest getting ready to swap her red pom-pom hat (meaning you are unmarried) for a black pom-pom hat (married). She led us to some interesting spots in Freiburg and told us of how life was in the olden days. Interesting stop was the wonderful Minster (Cathedral) of Freiburg. This cathedral was started in 1200 and finished about 1330 and miraculously was not damaged during the bombing of 1944. A minister means it was owned (payed for) by the people of Freiburg. We were shown some interesting carvings on the outside of the church. In the Middle Ages the market was held around the church, with stalls of many vendors selling their wares. To make sure you were not cheated by any of these vendors on the outside of the church walls there were drawings of what size the loaf of bread should be. The smaller one was the size of the loaf during times of bad harvest. If anyone was caught cheating the courts were held in the market square also.
We ended our tour in the wine cellar of the oldest restaurant in Freiburg with a little of the bubbly. Sehr gut!
We made it through the tour before the rains came but we still managed to get a little shopping in before heading home. All in all a good day.
So off to the “Vogtsbauernhof” Black Forest Freilichtmuseum on Tuesday. Weather seems to be holding and we had a beautiful ride down through the countryside. Rolling green hills (or a little bit bigger than hills) with the tall pine trees that give the “Black Forest” their name. In the midst
of the green mountainside typical Black Forest farms that remind me of chalets. We would soon learn all about how farmers lived in these huge farmhouses.
These were all in one farmhouses, meaning they shared the house with their animals and the other farmworkers. There could be up to 15 or 20 people living in this house but they were enormous. The house was built into the side of the mountain so the farmer could drive his oxen and cart up and into the second story hayloft.
The farmer and his family and farmhands would eat together but in a pecking order. The farmer
at the head and the farmer’s wife to his left and the head farmhand at his right. What I find interesting is that they ate out of one bowl by dipping their spoons in. When the farmer was finished he put
his spoon down and everyone else had to quit. They would wipe their spoons on their pants and hang them back on the wall. There is a saying in Germany “when you give up your spoon” means you have departed this life.
We came to a smaller farmhouse that also included the stalls for the animals inside and attached to the outside of the house was an “outhouse” (they use a heart shape instead of a moon) this was connected to a trough inside the animals stall that I guess you would “collect” the manure and
send it down the trough to the barrel outside. Looks like the people used the small balcony to access the outhouse and the barrel and this all was used as fertilizer! Would not want to be the one who had to spread this on the fields.
They lived in such a beautiful place and the life was hard but it is so interesting how they ingeniously thought of all kinds of things to make their life a little easier.
We had some fun with some of the souvenirs too! Of course we
sampled the Black Forest cake before we took the train back to our magical home-base town.
Did you watch last week’s WDYTYA and follow Rob Lowe’s journey of finding his ancestor that had been a Hessian soldier that fought in the American Revolutionary War? Do you have or think you may have a “Hessian soldier” in your background? Then here is a site from the Archives in Marburg, Hesse, Germany that has a database for Hessian Troops in America. First a little background on Hessian involvement in the Revolutionary War from Wikipedia.
During the American Revolution, there were many German states loosely unified under the Holy Roman Empire. Many of these German states were officially Protestant, making them traditional allies of other Protestant nations, such as the United Kingdom of Great Britain, whose king, George III, was also the Prince-Elector of Hanover. King George III came from an ethnic German line, and was the first of the House of Hanover to speak English as his first language. Great Britain formed strong German alliances during the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, and had combined forces with Frederick the Great during the Seven Years War to form a coalition that functioned as one Army. When the British colonies in America rebelled a decade later, several German states contracted for the temporary loan of German soldiers to the British Army. Although the leasing of German soldiers to a foreign power was controversial to some Europeans, the German people generally took great pride in their soldiers’ service in the war.
Americans were alarmed at the arrival of German troops on American soil, viewing it as a betrayal by King George III. Several American congressmen declared they would be willing to declare independence if King George used German soldiers. German soldiers provided American patriots with a propaganda tool; they were derogatorily called “mercenaries,” and were referred as such in the Declaration of Independence:
“He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat [sic] the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. “
Despite American propaganda, contemporary writers suggested that German soldiers were well respected and well cared for, both by Americans and British. At the conclusion of the war, Congress offered incentives for German soldiers to stay in the United States. Great Britain also offered land and tax incentives for German soldiers willing to settle in Nova Scotia.
Here is the link: http://lagis.online.uni-marburg.de/en/subjects/index/sn/hetrina