"July 24, 1915 began as the morning of a long-awaited outing for 7,000 Western Electric employees and their families in Chicago. The company chartered five steamers to take them on a trip to Michigan City, Indiana. They would spend the day having a grand picnic, enjoying the beaches and amusements during their getaway from work and city life. It was a calm, if drizzly day, but thoughts of danger were far from the minds of the vacationers. Yet, on that morning, the 2,500 passengers who stepped aboard the Eastland embarked upon a journey that would become as tragic as those of the recently lost ocean liners Titanic and Lusitania."
Thus David A. Norris begins his report of this nightmarish company picnic in the Feb/Mar 2009 issue of History Magazine.
Consider using popular history sources to embellish the story of our ancestors' lives. Just this morning Ol' Myrt here was talking with another researcher about the need for historical context when considering the day-to-day lives of our ancestors.
Your Chicago ancestor may not have been on the Eastland, but may have been n member of the emergency crew called to the docks, a policeman working the line of anxious onlookers, a physician at the hospital, or the corner newsboy hawking the extra edition of the local paper reporting the tragic news.
Local and regional historical events like train wrecks, floods, mine explosions, earthquakes and fires affected our ancestors even if they weren't the ones dousing flames on their roofs with garden hoses or shoveling mud from their basements. Communities pull together in times of disaster as the kinder, gentler human side shines forth.
Find ways to put meat on the bones, and genealogy isn't just reporting names, dates and place, but writing the story of our ancestors with an eye to what was happening in his home town at the time.
Happy family tree climbing!
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