Saturday, 17 May 2014

Genealogical impacts of natural disasters

The following is a request from Wayne Shepheard, formerly editor of AFHS Chinook.
I am compiling examples about how natural disasters and other physical impacted people and communities in past centuries. I am interested primarily in specific examples relating to events in Britain although I do intend to eventually catalogue examples from other parts of the world for a follow-up publication. The subject material will be used for a book I am writing and may also be useful in any presentations I might be fortunate to be able to make at future conferences or other family history meetings.
As someone who was educated and spent a career as an Earth Scientist, I am intimately familiar with the results of natural processes that shape the physical environment in which humans exist, active both in the geologic past and throughout recorded history, up to and including the present-day. In my genealogical studies I have been particularly mindful of how the histories of families were both negatively and positively shaped by changes to their habitat and to disasters which overwhelmed them.
I believe that the lives and livelihoods of our ancestors were controlled or affected as much by natural conditions and events as by political and societal constraints. In many cases the latter were strongly influenced by the former. Natural phenomena were an integral part of the environment in which people lived and worked – affecting both their physical health as well as their economic well-being.
Natural disasters, in particular, had profound effects on people’s activities. Events such as major storms, floods, earthquakes, disease, famine, drought, climate, or just the gradual physical changes to the lands on which people lived affected individuals’ and families’ day-to-day existence, long-term prosperity or decisions to migrate to more hospitable or habitable areas of the country or the world. I touched on one such example in my recent guest post on The Pharos Blog.
Questions family historians might ask themselves could include: Would your great-great-grandparents or other family members have been forced to give up their farm if they were flooded out? Would your carpenter or mason ancestor have moved to a location where there was a great deal of work available to repair the damage caused by a major windstorm? Did any of your ancestors lose their lives when tragedy struck in the form of a natural catastrophe?
If you can assist in helping me to find stories of how such incidents of nature which affected your own or others’ ancestors I would be most appreciative. Please spread the word to any of your own contacts. Anyone with applicable information can contact me directly. email Wayne dot Shepheard at gmail dot com

1 comment:

Peter Munro said...

I've suggested the Eyemouth (Scotland) Fishing Disaster 1881 when much of the fishing community was killed as a result of a hurricane.

There's quite a lot via search engines but also it's worth reading Black Friday (previously titled Children of the Sea) by Peter Aitchison.

His book covers other storms and bits of local history, too.

Best wishes,

Peter Munro
Berwick 900 Families Project

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