Include the Weather in the Story

The weather outside is frightful! What was it like during significant events in your family history? Did the weather play a part in what your ancestors did and where they lived? Did they survive tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts or blizzards? Move to sunnier climes? What was it like the day you were born? Weather events can be fascinating details to add to your family story.

Consider the case of Genevieve Bohn, born in Chicago 7 November 1901. “Genevieve was to be the last child born to Susan and Charles Bohn. She made her appearance 7 November 1901 on an overcast day in Chicago while a a few snow flurries blew about. By evening it was a clear, chilly 38 degrees, as the close-knit family gathered together to celebrate the birth of the newest member.”

Or from another November in Chicago:

“Michael Cummings was a flagman for the Northwestern railroad. It was only November (1887), but for Chicago that meant winter had begun. The first blizzard-like conditions hit on November 19th. The Tribune reported that it was ‘just the kind of weather that makes railroad men swear…(the wind) whirled the snow into drifts through which the locomotives had to plow their way.’* Although he was used to working in Chicago’s changeable climate, the combination of cold and snow may have contributed to the accident that took Michael’s life on November 22nd, when he was run down by a freight train at Hamlin and Kinzie.”

You can add weather information to your story by researching local newspapers. Large city papers contain weather statistics for cities around the country (and the world).

For general information about the weather in a particular location, try Weatherbase.com. It provides climate averages, forecasts, current conditions and normals for 29,252 cities worldwide.

This Day in Weather History allows you to choose a day, month or year to view major historical weather events in North America. A source for the weather event data is provided.

Weather Source contains data going back to 1902.

The Climatological Records of the Weather Bureau, 1819 - 1892 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T907, roll 475) includes monthly reports that are organized by weather station and then by month and day. The reports indicate barometric readings; the monthly range of the mean, low, and high temperatures; the total rainfall or snow melted; the depth of unmelted snow lying on the ground at the end of the month; and the total number of days on which snow or rain fell. The microfilm is available at many NARA regional archives as well as in Washington, DC.

Also, take a look at: “De Smet, Dakota Territory, Little Town in the National Archives, Part 2.” Prologue Winter 2003, Vol. 35, No. 4., by Constance Potter.

* “A Simon-Pure Blizzard,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November 20, 1887.

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