After today’s blog post on Boards of Inquiry, The Legal Genealogist was reminded that any major tragedy may well prove to be the kind of magnet that attracts writers of all kinds — not just those who have to write an official report.
And one of the tragedies mentioned was written up in a book of unique genealogical interest — a good read for anybody, a must-have resource for anybody whose family was in any way touched by the 1904 fire aboard the steamship General Slocum.
The General Slocum, remember, was the steamship that set out into New York waters on a bright June day, having been chartered by St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in New York for an excursion. There were 1,358 passengers on board, 90 percent of them women and children. A fire on board and the subsequent beaching of the ship resulted in the deaths of 955 people — 745 of them children. A special federal commission was appointed to investigate, and issued a 72-page report into the disaster.1
But in addition to that official report, there’s Angels in the Gate: New York City and the General Slocum Disaster, a book by Karen T. Lamberton2 — an intensely personal account of the General Slocum tragedy, family by family of many of those affected, written by a genealogist.
Here’s the description:
On June 15, 1904, a disastrous fire aboard the steamboat, General Slocum, devastated the largest German ethnic population in the United States in a matter of two hours. Close to two thousand people, mostly women and children, were on board the General Slocum, bound for a picnic on Long Island Sound. A carelessly tossed cigarette butt turned this pleasant excursion into a raging inferno that claimed over a thousand lives.
This book contains the uniquely personal recollections of the survivors and their families, the good Samaritans, the heroes, the caregivers, and the passers-by whose families where touched by the largest maritime disaster, and most deadly fire, in New York’s history prior to September 11, 2001. Each family’s experience has been compiled separately and is augmented by a descendants’ family tree. In some cases, the family tree begins with the original immigrant ancestor of the family. The stories are presented in the descendant’s own words and (as available) photos of their ancestors have been included. Appendices include the most complete listing of victims, survivors, and their families ever compiled. A wealth of illustrations enhance the text.
The book is available from its publisher, Heritage Books; the price is $36.00.
- Report of the United States Commission of Investigation upon the Disaster to the Steamer “General Slocum” (Washington D.C : U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1904); PDF version, digitized by U.S. Coast Guard, 2003 (http://marinecasualty.com/documents/Slocum.pdf : accessed 6 Dec 2012). ↩
- Karen T. Lamberton, Angels in the Gate: New York City and the General Slocum Disaster (Westminster, Md. : Heritage Books, 2006). ↩