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.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Did your Ancestor have Cancer?

And were they CURED? Perhaps they visited Dr. Nichols Sanatorium near Savannah, Missouri back in the 1920's.

Dr. Perry Nichols (pictured) specialized in the treatment of Cancer, Lupus, Chronic Ulcers and Tumors, and claimed to be able to cure patients who made the journey to his medical facility.

He proudly listed former patients (over 6,000 of them) as References in his published work, "The Value of Escharotics or Medicines which will Destroy any Living or Fungus Tissue." A 1927 edition of this work has recently been transcribed and indexed as part of the Genealogy Today Subscription Data collection. We also own a 1923 edition and plan to index it in the future.

Also included in this publication are testimonials from several dozen patients (with their photos), and a staff listing. The References list shows patients travelled from different states, and now you can search to see if any of your ancestors are mentioned on the Dr. Nichols Sanitorium 1927 References & Testimonial Index. While a subscription is required to see the full details of the listings, anyone may search the name index for free.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Whoa Nellie! Don't Rush to Judgement, Genealogists

Yesterday, Thomas MacEntee and others, rallied up "the troops" to post comments on an article in PC Magazine written by Jill Duffy in which she reviews the web site. In Thomas's own words, "The author needs an education as to the reality of genealogy."

We need to take a moment and reflect on a few things... first, this is an article for a TECHNOLOGY magazine, and is about the technological ease that Ancestry offers "want to be" genealogists. In the past few years, Ancestry has made tremendous strides to bring genealogy to the mass market. If you think making little leaves (i.e. the hints) appear on a tree is easy, think again. That seemingly simple feature involves huge amounts of hardware and sophisticated software, and yet, it's probably the most effective feature that bridges the gap between novice and "the science of" genealogy.

Second, give PC Magazine some credit for even allowing one of its editors to review genealogy products and services. This is a GREAT thing for genealogy as it exposes the hobby to a very different audience. And again, remember this is a review of one service,, and NOT an article about online genealogy. PC Magazine is about technology, it's not a hobby enthusiast publication. And they're also in the business of selling products, so there's always that hint of "did they get a friendly nudge from Ancestry" to write this review.

Third, many of us (i.e. genealogists who've been doing this for years) need to recognize that there is a new breed of "family tree enthusiast." They're a younger crowd, engulfed in technology, used to having information at their fingertips, and (sadly) not so interested in doing the real work (and certainly none of the  DIGGING) that genealogy requires. So, for this growing audience, Ancestry has had the insight to adjust their service to reduce (not eliminate) some of the heavy lifting involved in genealogy. Many of you may remember a time (back say prior to 2006) when the main focus of the Ancestry home page was SEARCH, and then one day the search box disappeared, being replaced by a "build-a-tree" feature. All of the sudden, Ancestry changed their focus and market strategy from serving experienced genealogists to catering to "newbies."

We can certainly hope that Jill is permitted to review other (non-Ancestry owned) technology-driven services, like MyHeritage and FindMyPast, but we should NOT expect PC Magazine to publish an article highlighting the broad selection of genealogical resources available online.