Weather and Family History-the Strong Connection!

Another interest of mine is weather, and being in Maine with its seasons and their variety makes it pretty hard to ignore. Just for fun, I tried googling genealogy and the weather as a joint topic and came up with some surprising results. One of them was an article by my friend Maureen Taylor, “Historical Weather Resources”, which appeared in Family Tree Magazine on June 9, 2011 ( . She provides a number of interesting book titles, and websites. I decided to check out GenDisasters, which is amazing. One can browse by type of disaster, year, state (and then town), and Canada is even included! For example, I learned that there was a major fire in my hometown in 1915, where an entire block was destroyed. The article noted, however, that town records were saved!

When you get right down to it, what family is not affected by weather at some point in their lives? If you spend any time with old diaries, one of the main subjects is the weather; understandably so, with farming in the picture. I am reminded of the “Year Without a Summer”, 1816, when frost and/or snow occurred in every month, resulting in a disastrous growing season in this part of the country. Cyrus Eaton, in his ‘Annals of the Town of Warren…’ noted that “Deacon Thomas Robinson and family, Robert Porterfield and family, both of this town, Mr. March of Union, and Dr. Benjamin Webb then of Thomaston, with their families, besides many others, removed in 1817 to Ohio…” (p. 322). In 1826 there was a freshet during the spring in New England, which proved fatal to an entire family in the White Mountains. On August 28th an avalanche killed all the WIlleys: Samuel, his wife Polly, their 5 children and two others. We read constantly of those killed or displaced by shipwrecks, lightning, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes (i.e. Katrina). And, if your ancestors were in the Great Plains in the mid to late 1930s, they may’ve moved elsewhere because of the “black blizzards” created by the high winds and lack of rainfall. By 1940, more than 2.5 million people fled that area, nearly 10% going to California.

We’re all controlled by the weather and climate where we live, and it remains a vital part of all family histories. Discover the role it plays in your story!

Emily Schroeder

About Emily Schroeder

Greetings to everyone who’s into genealogy! I’m Emily Schroeder, and I’ve been at Maine State Library since 1980. My latest incarnation has transformed me into the genealogy specialist, which means I get to visit other libraries and do genealogy workshops, have classes onsite, teach adult ed., write newsletters, join genealogy groups, and generally try to keep myself “in the know”. I’m hoping that through this blog we can share ideas, review resources and databases, and maybe introduce something new to readers in the genealogy field. You can always e-mail me at: