Friday, September 28, 2012

Those Accident Prone Jobs of our Ancestors

Was "danger" your ancestor's middle name? There have always been jobs where the employees were prone to having accidents, sometimes fatal ones. And yet, these industries have always had people responsible for monitoring the work conditions and pushing for better safety precautions.

Mining Accidents

Even today, mining remains a very risky career, so its not surprising that many men were injured deep beneath the Earth's surface. In many states across the country, where mining was a prevalent industry, there were inspectors who produced reports documenting the fatal and non-fatal accidents that occurred during the year. Check out the growing group of these mining reports (and the transcribed accident reports) in the Genealogy Today Subscription Data collection.

Railroad Employees

Not only were railroad employees subject to the occasional accident, but railroad tracks all too often attracted people who ended up in the wrong place, at the wrong time. State Railroad commissioners had the task of recording the accidents that occurred along the lines running through their states. Likewise, many railroad fraternal groups offered insurance-like benefits to their members, and recorded events that sidelined members. Browse through this list of railroad reports and see if any of your ancestors suffered mishaps.

Boiler Explosions

When man discovered steam, the world became a warmer place (or at least the workplaces of our ancestors did). But with steam, comes incredible amounts of pressure, which often resulted in extraordinary explosions. When I stumbled upon a copy of The Locomotive, a newsletter published by the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company, and saw that each issue contained a short report about recent accidents,   it seemed like an excellent (albeit somewhat gruesome) genealogical resource. Check out the insurance records page for a list of issues that have been transcribed.

Mother Nature's Angry Side

When someone mentions farming accidents, your first thought is probably "man plus tractor equals accident," but the weather, particularly lightning, was more of an ongoing problem. Lightning was a constant threat to some farmers, causing fires as well as killing livestock. Among the insurance records we've transcribed, are many instances of farmers making claims for lost horses, cows and even sheep. With all the trees and buildings, how does a little sheep get struck by lightning? As far back as the 1850's, farmers protected their livelihood by opting for property insurance, and many of the reports issued by insurance companies list the claims they paid during the year.

There are plenty of interesting resources that you won't often find in the genealogy section of libraries, but you fill find many of them transcribed at Genealogy Today. Whether its a report documenting factory accidents, or firemen injured in the line of duty, we're always looking for alternative sources of genealogical information.

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