Friday, July 31, 2009

Hard Days, Sad Times

Into every life a little rain must fall. Unfortunately for some that rain is accompanied by a hurricane, tornado, or lightning.

The topic for the 77th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is: disasters that our families have lived through. This is about the folks for whom the rain in their lives was torrential or the snow a blizzard as the case may be.

My great grandparents immigrated to the U.S. in 1881 (my father's mother's branch of the family). My paternal grandfather came in 1905 and my maternal grandfather and grandmother came in 1912 and 1913 respectively. They all lived in Poland prior to their immigration to the U.S. and I don't have a clue how to research disasters in Poland from the 19th century or earlier, especially since I don't speak the language. My grandparents and great grandparents all lived in the Detroit, Michigan area and so did all their children and grandchildren. So for the most part, I can only research what disasters might have befallen them in the last 100 years in Detroit.

There are only about three dozen articles on the GenDisasters web site that pertain to Detroit in the last 100 years and none of my family members are mentioned in any of them. However, there are a couple blizzards that my great grandparents lived through and I guess those would qualify as disasters.

In April of 1886, just 5 years after my great grandparents came to Detroit, the city experienced a blizzard the likes of which had not been seen before. The freak spring storm occurred on April 6 and began just after midnight. By 7am the snowfall measured 4.6" in nearby Rochester, by 3pm there were 17.1" on the ground, and by the time the snow stopped falling at 9pm there was a blanket of 24.5" of snow there. "Twelve-foot high drifts and snow in the street that totaled 10" to 40" were common throughout southeastern Michigan."

I have no idea how my family members coped with this blizzard but none of them died in it so they must have found a way.

There was another blizzard that must have effected them on February 9, 1895. The huge storm effected folks from Iowa and Kansas to Massachusetts and Florida and most all the states in between. I don't have details as to the amounts of snow or the wind speed but from what information I have read the storm was a doozy.

Again, I have no idea how my family members dealt with this storm but none of them perished in it.

The one other disaster that may have effected my family involved a train wreck that occurred about 60 miles NE of Baton Rouge, LA on August 10, 1951. A U.S. Marine transport train ran head on into a passenger train. Eight people were killed, 60 injured. One of those killed was Marine Cpl CHESTER LOUIS LIPA, 21, of Detroit, Michigan. I believe that Chester was a family member of mine but I don't have what I feel is conclusive evidence of that. I mention him and this tragedy here in hopes that anyone reading this who has documentation of Chester's parents will share that with me. (imjasia at yahoo dot com)

Simmesport, LA Trains Collide, Aug 1951 (from

PA, NY, DC, KY, MD, IA, TN, RI, FL, GA, MI, MA, KS, SC, IL, NJ, OK Blizzard, Feb 1895 (from

Blizzard of 1886 (from

COG Poster (from Thanks!


  1. I often wonder how they survived the hard times, pain and anguish of their lives.
    It is something that can spur me on when I am feeling down.

  2. I guess that living where I do I don't think of blizzards as disasters but rather as hard work getting dug out and stocking up for the next one. But they have killed people and I imagine they could have really hurt your ancestors economically if they couldn't get to work or if the their place of business was closed. I think 19th and early 20th century folks were better about staying stocked up than we are today but my family's history is mostly rural.

    I hope you make a connection with someone about C. Lipa

    Word ver. makes me smile = ilikeur

  3. If you want to learn the names of the parents of Marine Cpl CHESTER LOUIS LIPA, you could try either the Funeral Home or the Library.

    While the John L. Wysoki Mortuary is no more, you could call the David J. Wysoki Funeral Home in Warren, MI and ask if they have the records from the John L. Wysoki Mortuary. The names of Chester's parents may be in the records.

    The Detroit Public Library will perform a search for an obituary for the small fee of $15, or you could just visit the library and look up the obituary yourself. Even though Chester Louis Lipa was killed in Loiuisiana, there would probably have been an obituary for him in Detroit, if that was his home town.

  4. Thanks for your suggestions Steve. I will try to look up Chester's obituary when I can get out to Ann Arbor. I've checked the suburban Detroit libraries and none of them carry films of the Detroit newspapers back to 1951. So it's either a trip to the Detroit Public Library or the Bentley Library in Ann Arbor. A trip to both is on my to-do list, just don't know when I can make it happen. I might be better off sending in a check for $15 and requesting the obit... but that takes all the fun out of finding it myself, LOL!

    I hadn't thought of calling the funeral home for information. That's a good idea! :-) Thanks!