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Keeping Grandmother’s Stories Alive For the Future

We all remember that story our grandmothers told us about a terrible storm they lived through during their early years as a child. Did you ever wish you could know a little more about it?


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We all remember that story our grandmothers told us about a terrible storm they lived through during their early years as a child. Did you ever wish you could know a little more about it?

As we grow older, family stories come back to us from time to time. Sometimes events in our own lives suddenly spark our memory and the stories of our grandmother come flooding back. I focus on the topic of storms, because in modern times storms are common topics in daily news reports, just as they were during our grandparents' years.

Weather forecasting has a long history of development. Weather forecasting probably began by word of mouth. A local person came back into town after a trip and told everyone at the local store that he almost did not make it because of the storm he encountered on the way home. Upon hearing his story, the local people knew what weather was on the way, probably within the hour.

There is also an old saying in weather forecasting which does have some truth to it: "Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning" and on the other side, "Red sky at night, sailors delight." It is uncertain how this saying started, but it has been used through the ages in weather forecasting and with good accuracy (especially at sea). This saying is even used today whether on the seas or on land.

In the mid-1940's, weather forecasting was aided by some of the first weather radar. After WW II there were many types of military radar available, and some of these instruments were later turned into weather forecasting radar. These became the first true way to forecast weather. Unfortunately, these instruments forecasted weather only a short distance away and people did not have much time to prepare for severe storms.

This information was then broadcast through local radio stations, where local people who were listening would then alert others of the upcoming bad weather. With this change in weather forecasting, there was also better recorded information about the aftermath of these storms through local newspapers. This gave others outside of the storm-hit area an idea of what it was like for those in the path of the storm, and it also preserved the information for us today in these old local papers.

I remember one such story in our family of a terrible storm the family endured in the southeastern part of Texas. As I remember the story being told to me, how startling the storm was during that night in the 1940's with windows breaking, and the children huddled in the corner of a safe place in the house. I can still remember the vivid descriptions of the story, the drapes were flapping in the wind as the torrential rain came in the broken windows, and the only light in the house was the lightning that lit the sky all night.

I always wondered how other people in the community endured the terrible storm that night, how much rain did they get, and what was it like the next day to clean up.

Well, today I know more about the night that terrible storm that hit southeastern Texas. I wrote to the community newspaper where the family was living. I remembered how old my grandmother said she was at the time, and I remembered she had told me it was during the summer time.

Here are a few things it might be helpful to know:

  1. The approximate year it took place, by using the age of the storyteller at the time.
  2. The time of year, perhaps the season if not the month.
  3. The community where the event took place.
Knowing these three things, I was able to search for severe storms during the summer of that year, using Google. Once I found the dates of the storm, I then found the address of the local library in the community and wrote to them about this storm with the information I found out. Within two weeks I had newspaper clippings for several days in a row about the severe storm that hit southeastern Texas that one summer night. And not only did I find out how much rain they received that night, but also found out about the terrible flooding, high winds, whose homes were damaged, and the extent of the damage.

If you remember a similar story or some other event a grandparent, aunt or uncle telling you about, jot down what you remember, and then use Google or another Internet search engine to find out what other information might be useful to help a local library track down newspaper articles with the information you seek.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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