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, July 2, 2019

The Madness of Mother Nature: Wreck of the Irish Immigrant Ship, the Carrick

Recently there have been several news reports about bodies found on a beach in Gaspé that were buried in 1847. 

In 2011 the bones of three children were found washed up on the beach after a violent storm. Five years later an exhaustive survey of the area unearthed the remains of 18 others. It has been determined that all of them were likely buried together is a shallow trench, creating a makeshift cemetery for the victims. Stories from the survivors, along with analyses of the remains concluded that these bodies were from the ship wrecked in 1847.

Due to poor preservation, only small parts of the skeletons of the deceased were recoverable. Following analyses of the bones, to help determine where the individuals originated and their physical condition at the time of death, the remains were to be reburied in a cemetery near the Irish Memorial on Cap-des-Rosiers Beach. Tests showed the individuals were from an area in which the main diet was potatoes and that they were suffering from diseases related to malnutrition.

Those buried were from the ship, Carricks, which was wrecked during a storm near Cap de Rosier, Quebec, Canada. She sailed from Sligo, Ireland, in March 1847, with 173 passengers, all desperate survivors of the Potato Famine in search of a better life in Canada. Only 48 survived. The passengers were from 27 families originating in or near County Sligo. Descendants of the survivors still reside in the area.
The scene at Skibbereen, west Cork, in 1847. From a series of illustrations by Cork artist James Mahony (1810–1879), commissioned by Illustrated London News 1847. (in public domain; retrieved 20 June 2019 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Skibbereen_by_James_Mahony,_1847.JPG)

After a rough passage of 23 days, the ship was caught in a blinding snowstorm in the middle of the night and was driven by winds on to the rocky coast of the Gaspé Peninsula. I won’t recount the entire story here. You can read about it in many articles and news reports and in a book a book published in 1919, titled
Treasure Trove in Gaspé and The Baie des Chaleurs. A documentary was filmed

This lone ship was part of a much larger exodus from Ireland that arrived in the St. Laurence River area of Canada. The river was a conduit for refugees escaping the famine in Ireland between 1845 and 1849. Most arrived in the New World sicker than they were when they left, due to poor hygiene, limited food and water supplies, bad weather and the very close confines in the bellies of the ships that carried them. Upon their arrival in Canadian waters, ships were quarantined until authorities could determine whether they posed health-risks to any community in which they settled.
Map of Gaspé, Quebec region showing locations of Cap-des-Rosiers and Grosse Isle
Treatment by Canadian immigration personnel was harsh and, in many cases, inhumane. People were trapped on arriving ships, including those already sick and dead. Medical assistance was lacking in any substantive way. By 1847, even the limited resources were overwhelmed by the large numbers of immigrants.

At Gross Isle, Quebec, a central depot had been established in 1832 for receiving, housing and treating people coming to Canada to contain a cholera epidemic. It was reopened and expanded to accommodate Irish immigrants in the 1840s. Notwithstanding attempts to aid passengers, thousands died on the trip across the ocean and while trapped at Gross Isle. Over 5,000 people are buried on the island. From 1832 to 1932, nearly 500,000 Irish immigrants to Canada passed through Grosse Isle.

The experience for those on board the ship, Carricks, was like the trifecta of Mother Nature’s madness: famine, disease and storms. In biblical terms, it was as if three of the Four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Famine, Pestilence and Death) had descended on this helpless group.


MacWhirter, Margaret Grant. (1919). Treasure Trove in Gaspé and The Baie des Chaleurs. Quebec: The Telegraph Printing Co. 217 pp. 

Selected online blogs, articles and news summaries:
·         Memorials to the Carricks of Whtehavem https://ghostofthecarricks.wordpress.com/monument/
·         Bones found on beach in Quebec’s Gaspé are from 1847 Irish shipwreck (CP) 9 June 2019 https://globalnews.ca/news/5371235/bones-gaspe-irish-shipwreck-parks-canada/
·         Genealogy a la Carte (Gail Dever) 13 June 2019 http://genealogyalacarte.ca/?p=28479
·         Human remains found in Gaspé are from 1847 Irish shipwreck, Parks Canada confirms (spencer Van Dyk) 7 June 2019  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/carricks-shipwreck-remains-1.5166478?
·         Bones found in Gaspé confirmed to be from 1847 shipwreck victims fleeing Irish potato famine (Morgan Lowrie) 10 June 2019 https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/bones-found-in-gaspe-confirmed-to-be-from-1847-shipwreck-victims-fleeing-irish-potato-famine-1.4459202
·         Lost Children of the Carricks Documentary, Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/carricksofwhitehaven/videos/191785188402448/
·         Grosse Isle, Quebec – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grosse_Isle,_Quebec
·         The Irish Exodus – https://www.libraryireland.com/irishamerica/irish-exodus.php

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Mother Nature’s Best

Having dealt last month with some of the worst tricks Mother Nature has played on people, perhaps we should look at what positive events she has directed our way.

Humans have always been at the mercy of natural forces and faced the brunt of disasters that killed many, but our development and progress as a species and civilization have also been aided by benevolent and timely changes to our environment.

Earth, Air, Water & Fire

These were the classical, and simple, elements of our world originally defined by the ancient Greeks but referred to by almost all pre-existing civilizations as well. They are, individually and in combination, part of what we refer to as Nature:

·         The earth offers us the means to grow our food and minerals to use in our daily lives.  
·         Water sustains life in all forms.
·         Air is necessary for life but is also part of the atmosphere which regulates the Earth’s temperature.
·         Fire was the energy that drove both the Sun, Earth’s systems and human assertiveness and passion.

Humans have learned to use all of the elements Mother Nature has provided.


For most of civilized human existence, farming – of necessity – has been the major occupation. And, in order to achieve the highest productivity, fresh water is required. It is no surprise that people have chosen to live alongside rivers, in areas of fertile soils. These areas are located mostly in the floodplains of large rivers. Annually, springtime floods bring not only needed moisture but also nutrients in the form of organic matter and new soil to be deposited across broad parts of the valley floors. Year after year, farmers come to depend on the bounty brought by rivers.
Aerial photo of the Cauto River near Guamo Embarcadero, council of the municipality of Río Cauto, Cuba (downloaded from Wikimedia Commons

The water of rivers and oceans was also integral to transportation, allowing people to voyage in search of new trade opportunities and new lives. Both also had their own bounty in the form of food stuffs.

Warm is Good

The Sun provides life-sustaining warmth. Light (from the sun), in combination with water (from the ground) and carbon dioxide (from the air), is part of the natural process of photosynthesis which allows plants to respire, grow and reproduce. Plant material, of course, is a dominant part of the diets of almost all animals on Earth, including humans.

Over the centuries, the best farming conditions have been experienced during the warm climatic periods. During these times, extreme weather conditions were rare, rainfall fell in abundance during the growing seasons, summers were warm.

In each of the warm periods of the last 10,000 years – the Holocene period – living conditions were favourable, civilization prospered, and population grew.
Average near-surface temperatures of the Northern Hemisphere during the last 11,000 years based on analyses of the changes in 18O isotopes from Greenland ice cores. The diagram demonstrates the alternating periods of warm and cold that occurred throughout the Holocene Epoch. (reproduced from Shepheard: Surviving Mother Nature’s Tests)

Landscape Beauty

Over the centuries, the natural beauty of landscapes has inspired artists, musicians and philosophers. Social interaction expanded as sunny days, not always during summer months, allowed people to get outside and enjoy the benefits of nature as well as the company of each other.
Valley of the Ten Peaks and Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Canada. (downloaded from Wikimedia Commons

Poets throughout history wrote of their experiences with Nature, contributions that brought joy and fascination to all those who read them. Many of these poems were written during the dark times of the Little Ice Age and Industrial Revolution when both cold conditions and dingy cities combined to produce dismal living conditions:

·         Frost – Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening
·         Kipling – The Glory of the Garden
·         Masefield – Sea Fever
·         Nash – Winter Morning Poem
·         Tennyson – The Brook
·         Wordsworth – I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

Even the symbol we use in genealogical studies is from Mother Nature, with all of its beauty and imperfections: a Tree!
The Angel Ok Tree in South Carolina (downloaded from Wikimedia Commons


Shepheard, Wayne (2018). 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). St. Agnes, South Australia: Unlock the Past.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Article in Going In-Depth: New Madrid Earthquakes

Read my latest article, Families in Peril: The New Madrid Earthquakes of 1811-12, in Going In-Depth magazine, published by The In-Depth Genealogist.

In the article I discuss the disaster that impacted people and communities in Arkansas, Kentucky and Missouri between December 1811 and February 1812. Property damage was severe. Many families were forced to abandon their homes which were inundated by the Mississippi River waters as channels were shifted and flood-waters inundated farms and towns.

You can subscribe to Going In-Depth or purchase back-issues here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Changing Landscapes

Read my recent article about natural phenomena and family history, in this case coastal margins, in the latest, April 2019 issue of Discover Your Ancestors periodical. In it you will learn about new lands were created along an major estuary in East Yorkshire, England, on which several families established farms.

The title of the article is Changing landscapes.

You can subscribe to the publication directly here.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Mother Nature at her Worst

We hear a lot these days, thanks to TV and the Internet, about major natural disasters. Each one is portrayed as the “worst” or “biggest” or “most deadly” event ever to have been experienced. Most often the comments come from those who were closest to where the events occurred. The sentiments are, of course, subjective, based on a limited level of knowledge of natural history and a result of the anxiety of how people are so negatively impacted.

Having said that, there have indeed been many events in recorded history that were decidedly deadly and widely damaging. Following are just a few of the worst. I will follow up, in a later post, with a summary of the most positive natural developments and changes, so readers may realize that Mother Nature is not always malicious.

The worst and, to humans, deadliest natural events span history. Contrary to modern news reports, they are not confined to recent years or decades or to any particular region. There have been some notable ones in the 21st century, but then those are the ones we are most familiar with and that have been imprinted on our collective memories through detailed news reports. Incomplete records mean that we cannot measure the effects of those that happened more than a few hundred years ago. In geologic time, we can only look at the sedimentary strata to see what devastation might have occurred, during times of early man or before humans walked the Earth.

Following are some examples we know about from actual records:


The deadliest flood occurred in China in 1931. Drought conditions had persisted between 1928 to 1930. Substantial snowfall arrived during the harsh winter of 1931-31. The spring melt was accompanied by torrential rain storms resulted in widespread flooding of the Yangtze River valley. Extreme cyclonic activity (nine separate storms) occurred during the summer season, offering no respite from the exceptional inundation.

Up to 50 million people were affected; crop loss was significant; homes and farms were destroyed. Following on the physical devastation was the spread of diseases including: cholera, measles, malaria, dysentery and schistosomiasis (caused by parasitic flatworms). Estimates of deaths, realizing that records were sparse and government reports were probably intentionally conservative, range from one to four million people.


Earthquakes are the most dangerous and deadly of Mother Nature’s tricks. Commonly thousands of people are affected and killed by such events around the world.

China was also the site of what is believed to be the greatest earthquake death toll. It has been estimated that over 830,000 people were killed in a tremor near Shaanzi in 1556. What makes these kinds of events particularly deadly is when they occur in densely-populated areas. Tectonic shifts of the Earth’s crust are part of the planet’s entire geologic record. They are considered disasters only if people are impacted.

The epicentre was near the cities of Huaxian, Weinan and Huayin where almost every building was destroyed and tens of thousands died. Damage and death were experienced over 300 miles away.

The area of the 1556 and other events is under extensional stress, bounded by major normal faults. When activated (often), large blocks are vertically-displaced with accompanying opening of fissures and production of landslides in surrounding highlands.


Major storms are frequent and can be devastating when they come ashore near populated areas. They have not increased in number or intensity over the centuries during which they have been reported, but as people and communities have grown in number so have the destruction and death tolls. Invariably, undeveloped regions with large numbers of poor neighbourhoods suffer the greatest.

On 7 October 1737, one of the deadliest cyclones struck Calcutta, India, killing an estimated, though unconfirmed, 300,000 people. A representative of the British East India Company, stationed there, reported on the damage in that city. Others wrote that storm surges destroyed 20,000 ships in the harbor.

In another time, and in another part of the world, a 1703 storm crossed southern England, causing significant damage. Daniel Dafoe, in his definitive book, The Storm, described the effects thusly:
·         wind gusts possibly topping 120 mph at the peak of the storm, levelling almost everything in its path
·         over 700 ships wrecked while docked or at anchor in harbours around southern England and while still at sea, with an estimated death toll of up to 10,000 sailors
·         thirteen Royal Navy warships sunk, with the loss of over 1,500 lives; many others severely damaged
·         over 120 lives lost, and hundreds more injured on land across England and Wales
·         significant damage in towns and cities – in London over 2,000 chimney stacks blown down, demolishing parts of the houses to which they had been attached
·         tens of thousands of head of cattle and sheep lost on farms along the storm’s path
·         major parts of forests levelled
·         areas around major estuaries impacted by floods from storm surges, in many cases more dangerous than the accompanying winds
·         severe disruption to local economies just emerging from decades of recession, the effects of which felt for years afterward
·         mercantile shipping, involving fleets serving major cities like London and the export markets, disrupted for many years until replacement ships could be put to sea
·         immediate inflation of prices in foodstuffs and other goods – building materials in particular

This event was singularly important as it hit a populated and advanced (for the time) economic centre of Europe. Dafoe’s report lists the many communities and people affected by the disaster.

Disease and Epidemics

We understand how diseases can decimate communities. Epidemics have raged in regions around the world, many spread by Europeans to unsuspecting and ill-prepared indigenous groups during the age of explorations and colonization during the 16th to 19th centuries.

No example is more illustrative of the potential for death, though, that the Black Death that spread over Europe in the 14th century. Between 1346 and 1352, the plague moved from the central Asia, to the Mediterranean trading ports and then across the continent to Scandinavia and the British Isles.

An estimated 75 to 200 million people died, representing from 30% to 60% of Europe’s population.

Other diseases have made their way through the human population over the centuries, some of which we have better information as to their consequences:
·         Since its recognition in the 17th century (it is believed to have originated several thousand years earlier), small pox has killed hundreds of millions of people around the world.
·         Measles has resulted in the deaths of at least 200 million people just during the last 150 years
·         Malaria has taken the lives of probably 250 million since the beginning of the 20th century.
·         The Spanish Flu arrived in 1918 in America and Europe, killing from 50 to 100 million worldwide.
·         Tuberculosis, also known as consumption or phthisis, killed over 1 billion people in the 19th and 20th centuries

Until the advent of vaccines, and better health care techniques, many of these and other diseases continued their relentless attack on communities everywhere.


While not common as direct killers, other than adjacent to locations of eruptions, volcanoes have had an effect of health, weather, agriculture and general climate. Some of the most violent and deadly eruptions were:
·         Mt. Tambora in 1815 which killed up to 120,000 people and affected weather and climate around the world for several years.
·         Krakatau, in 1883, had similar effects on global climate, and killed over 30,000 people in nearby areas to the eruption.
·         Laki fissure, in Iceland, erupted in 1783, sending a pall of ash and gas over most of Europe, causing crops losses, illness and death.
·         Mt. Pelee, in the Caribbean, exploded in 1902, destroying the city of St. Pierre, killing all but two of the 28,000 inhabitants.

Eruptions continue to occur with regularity along the active tectonic plate margins of the Earth’s crust. Accompanying them are devastating earthquakes and the spread of ash and gas high into the atmosphere. Mother Nature never rests in her quest to alter the surface of the globe and spread fear and death.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Genealogy and the Little Ice Age Presentation

Are you, or is your local group interested in learning more about how people fared during the Little Ice Age. You can download my presentation titled, Genealogy and the Little Ice Age from Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

The introduction reads:

As genealogists we seek information about our ancestors from as far back in time as possible. That being said, not all researchers may be familiar with the term, but some of the most important records we find were created during the time of the Little Ice Age.

The Little Ice Age was a climatic period that lasted from about AD 1300 to 1850, a time in history when, from a physical or environmental standpoint, in comparison to the warm periods that preceded and followed it, was characterized by:
·         substantially cooler temperatures around the globe
·         mostly unstable weather
·         more frequent and intense storms
·         especially challenging food production
·         harsh living conditions
All of these factors had enormous impact on the lives and livelihoods of people and contributed to famine, spread of disease, social unrest, injury to being and habitat, and, in some cases, migration.

Summarizing of vital data began in earnest during this time. Apart from purely religious reasons or to establish hereditary claims, it may have been instituted in response to the need for more accurate rolls for churches and governments in identifying individuals from whom they could raise funds to support expanded social programs – parish relief efforts, poor laws and workhouses – involving the care of their citizens, more of whom fell into dire straits as the Little Ice Age progressed.

Because the Little Ice Age is the time frame that most coincides with genealogical research, it is important to understand the physical conditions under which people lived in order to assemble the most complete histories of families.

This presentation will hopefully bring perspective to the study of the generations of families who lived through the time of the Little Ice Age.

This was presented as part of the Unlock the Past - Seattle seminar on September 6, 2018.

50 minutes. The recording is also included as part of the monthly or annual membership.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Drought During the Establishment of Early American Colonies

I wrote about droughts in general in a post on my Discover Genealogy blog on 29 May 2017: Natural Disasters and Family Misfortunes 3: Droughts. Some of those comments are repeated here.

Drought is basically a condition where there is a lack of water resources. According to researchers Gwyneth Cole and Terry Marsh (2006), of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Oxfordshire, droughts may be caused be due to a deficiency of rainfall (meteorological drought), accumulated deficiencies in runoff or aquifer charge (hydrological drought) or limited water present in the soil during the growing season (agricultural drought). The primary parameters of a drought, though, are a lack of precipitation over an extended period and affecting a large area.

Droughts have been part of natural events for millions of years in all parts of the world. With regard to human history, both recorded and ancient, droughts have played a significant role in the destruction of communities – even whole societies.

A long-lasting drought probably had a major impact on the outcome of the early American colonies. In 1585 new settlers came to Roanoke Island, in what is now Virginia, to begin a new life.

According to a 1998 study, The Lost Colony and Jamestown Drought (Stahle, et at, 1998) the years of 1587-89 saw the region experience a major drought. The authors state that “Tree-ring data from Virginia indicate that the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island disappeared during the most extreme drought in 800 years (1587-1589) and that the alarming mortality and the near abandonment of Jamestown Colony occurred during the driest 7-year episode in 770 years (1606-1612). These extraordinary droughts can now be implicated in the fate of the Lost Colony and in the appalling death rate during the early occupations at Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America.”

Data collected from tree-rings and population and immigration estimates in the region strongly suggest that mortality rates rose with increasing aridity (drought index). The new settlers in America had the greatest bad luck to arrive at a time when drought was widespread and possibly the worst it had been in centuries. Even considering threats from other sources, such as the potential conflict with the native population, it is no wonder the colonies failed.

This episode was not the first nor the last major drought to affect America, including on both indigenous people and new settlers:

·         The Terminal Classic Drought coincided with the demise of the Mayan civilization between AD 750 and 1050 (Gill, 2000).
·         Between AD 990 and 1300 there were three intense and persistent droughts in the central and southwest part of the US, each lasting several decades. They all had severe impacts on natives that resulted in migration of the people and even collapse of their cultures (Jones et al, 1999).
·         The Civil War Drought (1856-1865) has been considered the most severe in more modern times, possibly rivalling that of the Medieval period (AD 750-1300). Other disastrous droughts occurred in the 1870s and 1890s. http://ocp.ldeo.columbia.edu/res/div/ocp/drought/nineteenth.shtml

Family historians may come across evidence that such natural phenomena have affected their own families, at different times and in different regions. Sometimes short-lived and sometimes over extended time periods, drought can and did have devastating impacts on living conditions.


Cole, G. A. & Marsh, T. J. (2006). An historical analysis of drought in England and Wales. In Climate Variability and Change – Hydrological Impacts (Demuth, S., Gustard, A., Planos, E., Scatena, F. & Servat, E., Eds.). International Association of Hydrological Sciences, publication number 308, pp. 483-489.

Gill, R. B. (2000). The Great Maya Droughts: Water, Life, and Death. University of New Mexico.

Jones, T. L., Brown, G. M., Raab, L. M., McVickar, J. L., Spaulding, W. G., Kennett, D. J., York, A. & Walker, P. L. (1999). Environmental Imperatives Reconsidered: Demographic Crises in Western North America during the Medieval Climatic Anomaly. Current Anthropology, (40/3), pp. 137-170. http://cola.calpoly.edu/~tljones/Jones%20et%20al%201999.pdf

Stahle, David W., Malcolm K. Cleaveland, Dennis B. Blanton, Matthew D. Therrell & David A. Gay. (1998). The Lost colony and Jamestown Droughts. Science, volume 280, 24 April, pp. 564-567.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Natural Disasters and Family Misfortunes: Volcanoes, Part 2

I wrote about the impact of volcanoes in a Discover Genealogy blog post on 17 October 2017, titled Natural Disasters and Family Misfortunes 8: Volcanoes. This is Volcanoes, Part 2.

If you could trace back your family to AD 79 in southern Italy, you might have had ancestors who escaped or were killed by the eruption of Vesuvius. If you have family members living on the big island in Hawaii, they may have lost their homes in the recent eruption of Kilauea.

Your ancestors did not have to live on the edge of volcanoes, though, to have been affected. The 1815 eruption of Tambora in Indonesia affected almost every part of the world, causing the Year Without Summer. The 1883 eruption of Krakatau, also in the Indonesian Archipelago, had similar effects on the world as ash and gases blanketed the Earth, shutting out the sun for long periods and precipitating noxious rainfall that hampered crop growth. Climatic patterns were disrupted for years.

These problems paled in comparison to the instant deaths of tens of thousands nearer to the volcanoes who died from the explosions, burial by debris or tsunamis which swept across coastal regions around the Pacific Ocean.

Closer to Europe, ash and gases released by the Laki fissure in Iceland in 1783 had some serious deleterious effects on people across Europe.
Map of Iceland and Europe showing the main path of ash and volcanic gases from the 1783 Laki eruption

In more recent times, an eruption, again in Iceland of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano caused major disruption to air travel and affected air quality over a large area.
Overlooking the Eyjafjallajökull glacier and the ongoing volcano eruption from Hvolsvöllur on April 17th, 2010; author Henrik Thorburn; used under Creative Commons License 3.0; downloaded 19 February 2019 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eyjafjallajokull_volcano_plume_2010_04_17.jpg
Composite map showing the position of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud that closed European air space in different days; used under Creative Commons License 3.0; downloaded 19 February 2019 from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eyjafjallaj%C3%B6kull_volcanic_ash_composite.png. Based on maps found at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/aviation/vaac/vaacuk_vag.html

This was but a minor eruption in the grand scheme of things but gives us a good idea of what effects volcanoes can have on people’s lives and community activities.

Recently a report was issued by the United States Geological Survey concerning the current threat from volcanic activity in the USA. I thought it might be of interest to update readers on the potential for disasters of this type.

You can read and download the report here. https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/sir20185140  

Most of us do not live near active volcanoes so have little to fear from their eruptions. In fact, most of our ancestors did not live close to them either and, other than from gases and ash carried thousands of miles to where they did live, people had little to be concerned about.

But volcanoes can obviously be highly destructive.

The report says that, “The United States is one of Earth’s most volcanically active countries, having within its territory more than 10 percent of the known active and potentially active volcanoes. . .  Since 1980, there have been 120 eruptions and 52 episodes of notable volcanic unrest (increased seismicity, observed ground deformation, and (or) gas emission) at 44 U.S. volcanoes.”

Now, granted, most of them have been dormant for a long time or are in locations far removed from significant population centres. The threat assessment is based “on objective measures of volcano hazards and exposure of people and infrastructure to those hazards.” One of the most active is in Hawaii which heads the list of very high-threat volcanoes. We have all seen the videos of the latest eruption at the lower east rift zone of Kilauea-Puʻu ʻŌʻō which has destroyed dozens of homes in Leilani Estates. The future of the subdivision is in question.

Helicopter overflight of Kīlauea Volcano's lower East Rift zone on 19 May 2018, around 8:18 AM, HST. ‘A‘ā lava flows emerging from the elongated fissure 16-20 form channels. The flow direction in this picture is from upper center to the lower left; source United States Geological Survey https://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/multimedia/uploads/multimediaFile-2062.jpg

A surprising number of the more dangerous volcanoes are along the west coast of the continental US. Eleven of the 18 locations labelled as high risk are in Washington, Oregon and California. Several others in the region have moderate to high risk. The western edge of the North American continent is, of course, an active region for earthquakes (another potential threat to lives) and volcanism, extending from Mexico to Alaska.

From the viewpoint of genealogy, volcanic eruptions of the past have been the cause of thousands of direct deaths, changes or alterations of weather and climate that resulted in famine, death or displacement and major migration of people facing threats to their lives or livelihoods. The modern world provides no exceptions to these threats although we do have systems in place to forewarn of eruptions, allowing people to get out of the way. Notwithstanding the warning systems in place, we have seen in recent years the potential harm to health and transportation of significant eruptions.

Did your ancestors get sick or die during one of these events?