Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Historic 1913 Flood - Where Was Your Ancestor?

Brown County in the 1913 Flood

I just realized I’ve been putting myself through an education not realizing what was occurring. When I became Archivist for our little local historical society I found there is so much more to historical documentation than just birth, death, and marriage records. I think as genealogists we are constantly looking for that new type of documentation that we had never known about before. There is a world of documents that have been created by governments, churches, and organizations that are endless. Even in a small community such as mine, our Archives is full of stories, and data that can be used to fill out a story, about your ancestor. This event or story was a part of their life!

Just watching the nasty weather this evening occurring here in Indiana brought to mind this topic for a blog post. Earlier this month I did a story on the 100th Anniversary of the 1913 Flood in Indiana. Doing research on the topic in our Archives and on-line I found gads of photos from all over the state. This brought to mind the term “historical context” again. Sometimes we get so involved in trying to find those dates that we forget that our ancestor lived during these historical events.

Martinsville in the 1913 Flood

I usually concentrate my research on Brown County, but my family lived in many parts of Indiana. The one photo that grabbed my attention was the flooding that occurred in Martinsville, Indiana. That date of 1913 stuck on my brain – Martinsville in the spring of 1913 – what happened then? It came back to me then. My 2nd great granduncle that I’ve been researching lived in Martinsville at that time. Wow, sudden realization, George Washington Brown was living in Martinsville in the 1910s (he died in 1915). He would have been 77 years old at the time of the flood. The homes and flooding in the photo is what his town looked like during that time period. Then I got to thinking, how did he handle this disaster especially at 77 years old? His wife, Rebecca Ann, would have been about 61 years old. They had living with them a grand daughter, Jessie Odetta, about age 8. They also had a son, George Washington Brown Jr. and his family living in the same town.

How did his family fare in the flood? Was he able to make it to his parents to see if they were okay? Many questions arise. What would be the next course of action if one wanted to check on these people at that time? Probably the next best thing would be to look at the old newspaper accounts. Our local newspaper had a pretty good story about the problems and heroic acts that occurred at the time in Brown County. This would be a great personal research project for any family historian. Look at major events that occurred during your ancestor’s lifetime. See if you can find someway to find the story, if not about your personal ancestor then maybe about the community they lived in or some of their neighbors. Okay, time for a research trip to Martinsville, Morgan County, Indiana.

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