Today is turbulent spring weather day with thunderstorms, hail and wind predicted for a large region. I was thinking about how weather impacted our ancestors, not only as pioneers in the United States and Canada but also in the home country. We can weave weather related items into our family story if we do the research. Let’s look.
Whenever we use “current events” like weather for our family history, we need to ensure that the information is relevant to their day-to-day lives. For example, a hurricane in Galveston, Texas would be relevant if your family lived there at that time. It is unlikely that your North Dakota ancestor would have been directly impacted—other than the event being a news story. So, how can we know about weather that happened a hundred years ago. Here are some sites that can help you.
Climate (weather.gov) It takes some time to sort through but if you wanted to see the temperature for a particular month or day, you can.
Weather History Archive: Historical Weather Data by Date | The Old Farmer's Almanac
If you are interested in the major weather events in the United States, this site has a list of events, lives lost, cost and location. Useful if your own family experienced one of these events.
List of disasters in the United States by death toll - Wikipedia
History of Droughts in the U.S. | Stacker
The Most Devastating Natural Disaster in Each State (theactivetimes.com)
This site highlights top natural disaster from each state—some a hundred years ago and others more recent. I had never heard of the Minnesota top disaster. It seems unimaginable and strange that it isn’t in our current memory.
Weather in History 1800 to 1849 AD (weatherweb.net)
Weather in History 1850 to 1899 AD (weatherweb.net)
Geared more towards the UK and Ireland, it gives an interesting snapshot of weather in that region in the past.
climate4you ClimateAndHistory 1800-1849
Focused on historical events, this site also notes climate events such as famine that impacted people in Europe.
With many digitized newspapers online, you have the luxury of reading newspaper articles from the comfort of your home. While in the past, you likely had limited time to look for those births, deaths, and marriage notices in the paper. Now you can take time to read about community events and the weather. If your ancestor was from a farming community, you can bet that weather events were recorded in the paper. Top stories would have called out: hail, thunderstorms, flooding, and extreme heat. Check out Chronicling America « Library of Congress (loc.gov).
These sites provide an interesting view into how weather may have impacted our ancestors. I hope you enjoy exploring these sites. Think about how weather impacts our day to day lives and what it must have been like for our ancestors without all our modern conveniences, including the up to the minute weather reports. Enjoy exploring weather and ancestors!
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.