About. . .

This website is meant for family historians. Readers will find information about how people and communities were impacted by natural phenomena – or Mother Nature. Blog posts will present examples of actual events and how families coped with them. Links will be added to websites and articles that may assist genealogists looking for specific data about certain areas.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Reading List: Natural Phenomena and Genealogy

I added a new page to this blogsite that contains a list of published books and articles dealing with natural phenomena. I offer these as I think they relate to family history studies. More are presented in my book, Surviving Mother Nature’s Tests

You can get to the page by clicking on the link on the right margin, titled Reading List: Natural Phenomena and Genealogy.

Those marked with an * are particularly recommended for an introduction into the subject. They are all very readable as well as interesting. Readers interested in looking at ways in which Mother Nature impacted families in the past will hopefully find some relevant information in some of these publications.

Over time I will add to the list, particularly titles that relate to my blog posts or published papers. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New England Storms

“. . . The northeast branch of the hurricane was accompanied by a terrible thunder shower during which the flashes of lightening were incessant, the whole heavens seeming to be one blaze of fire. The wind and hail that accompanied the shower almost entirely destroyed the grain. It passed onward to Royalton, where the rain fell in such quantity that the water was knee deep in the houses, and many buildings were undermined and ruined. One house was thrown down and carried a considerable distance by the flood. Hail of extreme size fell here plentifully, and it was affirmed by credible people that some of the stones were six inches in length, and by estimation weighed a pound. . .”

One might wonder if that description of a major storm was written recently, given all the news about hurricanes of the modern age. But the excerpt was actually taken from a book originally published in 1891 about a storm in the northeast United States that occurred on 23 June 1782.

The book is titled, Historic Storms of New England by Sidney Perley. It was first published by Salem Press Publishing and Printing Company, Salem, Massachusetts. The book was republished in 2001 by Memories Unlimited, Inc., Beverley, Massachusetts.

As the book’s subtitle, or general description notes, it is a compilation of New England “. . . Gales, Tornadoes, Showers with Thunder and Lightning, Great Snow Storms, Rains, Freshets, Floods, Droughts, Cold Winters, Hot Summers, Avalanches, Earthquakes, Dark Days, Comets, Aurora Borealis, Phenomena in the Heavens, Wrecks Along the Coast, with Incidents and Anecdotes, Amusing and Pathetic.”

The events recorded span the period from 1685 to 1890, which includes the last half of the Little Ice Age. The book is entertaining and informative, written in an old-style manner. It contains many specific references to places and people, so will be of use to family historians researching ancestors who lived in the New England region.

I bought my copy through Amazon. It was not vey expensive and, besides, I like to have these kinds of publications on my bookshelf where I can thumb through them at my leisure.

The original book can be found and downloaded in various electronic formats for free at archive.org. https://archive.org/stream/historicstormsn00perlgoog#page/n6/mode/2up

Overall, the book is a wonderful resource that connects people, communities and the impact of Mother Nature. It combines the scientific facts of the physical events with the mystical and spiritual beliefs of the people who lived through them.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

My New Blog – Mother Nature’s Tests

To my new (and old) readers. Welcome to my new blogsite.

Information here, as outlined above, is meant for family historians. Readers will discover how people and communities were impacted in the past by natural phenomena – or Mother Nature.

I will write blog posts concerning examples of actual events from all over the world and how families coped with them. Links will be added to websites and articles that may assist genealogists looking for specific data about certain areas.

As I have said in the Introduction to my book, “responses to natural phenomena, and how people adapted to environmental changes are part and parcel of the construction of family histories. Physical changes to human habitats through natural causes may have been underlying factors in decisions to move – to find jobs and/or improved living conditions.”

The blog will be an extension to the book and, hopefully encourage genealogists to explore the natural world, especially with respect to the areas in which their ancestors lived and the physical events that occurred during their lifetimes.

I hope you enjoy the posts and other information and find ways of using knowledge of the natural environment to assist studies of your family history.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Surviving Mother Nature's Tests - Introduction

Following is an excerpt from my book, Surviving Mother Nature's Tests: The effects climate change and other natural phenomena have had on the lives of our ancestors (with examples from the British Isles). For more information click the book cover image in the blog margin.


This book directly relates many of the situations observed in nature to the lives of families who experienced or endured them, primarily over the past several centuries. Natural events had wide-ranging effects on generations of people, as well as influencing changes to political, economic and societal situations. . .

Mother Nature is a fickle mistress and it often takes all the ingenuity, strength and moral fibre of individuals to last through and thrive under her changing demands. This was even more the case centuries ago when families were almost solely involved in agrarian activities and totally dependent on the land. Fluctuating conditions in the natural environment then had immediate and very profound influences on the success or failure of food-producing endeavours and income – even of life and death.

Naturally-occurring phenomena are a result of physical processes that have always been a normal part of Earth’s geological history. . .

For discussion and comparison purposes, specific types of natural events are described in relation to the time-frames in which they happened and how the lives of people were affected:

·         Climate Change – In order to fully appreciate how the processes involved in changes to living environments affected people and communities, it is necessary to also understand the basics of how climate itself changes.
·         Epochal Changes: The Holocene – Gradual altering of environments and human habitats, mainly related to climate change, but also to ongoing geological processes, occurred over hundreds of years and had long-lasting effects. As they affected people and communities, such changes are only observable over generations, but they did ultimately have major impacts on human existence and experience. Brief summaries of human and natural history of the last 10,000 years (the Holocene Epoch) illustrate how long-term changes to climate and the frequency of alternating warm and cold periods that occurred over that time span affected human history.
·         The Last Millennium – Natural changes during the last 1,000 years or so are reviewed in more detail along with their effects on people, communities and social systems. These are events that have been best documented and that can be directly tied to family histories as a consequence of widespread record-keeping and mass publication.
·         Slow-Developing Events – Drought and famine, erosion of coastal margins, infilling of estuaries, shifts in river courses and volcanic activity affected living conditions and economies, lasting from several months to several years. Many were directly related to the changing climate.
·         Rapidly-Materializing Incidents – Earthquakes, disease, floods and storms had immediate impacts on people and communities, individually lasting days, weeks or occasionally months. Some can be shown to be related to climate; others are part of normal geological processes that have been ongoing throughout the world’s existence. . .

The areas and events described in this publication, in regard to their relationships to communities and habitats, serve as examples for and may be equally applied to other regions around the world, as all parts of the globe have been impacted by natural events of one sort or another. Readers are directed to the many references provided for more details about their physical parameters and history.

Responses to natural phenomena, and how people adapted to environmental changes are part and parcel of the construction of family histories. Physical changes to human habitats through natural causes may have been underlying factors in decisions to move – to find jobs and/or improved living conditions. . .

Looking back at events of the past, we may come to the realization that we are all descended from survivors of Mother Nature’s tests. Natural phenomena have acted, in many cases, in a winnowing fashion on the population. Climate had a strong influence on the genesis of those changes.