I was reading a post on a book blog the other day about a book on the Eastland Disaster. Several people made comments that they had never heard of the Eastland Disaster and have lived some, most, or all of their lives in Chicago. Some said it was covered up by the city which is why no one has heard about it.
I commented to one woman who had previously commented that if she did not have family connected to Western Electric or of Bohemian descent, chances are she may not have heard about it. It didn’t concern her family. Or the family that knew about it didn’t think it was important enough to their family history to discuss it.
Did the city of Chicago cover it up? I don’t see how they could have. Hundreds of people died. News articles were in the papers. There is an entire section at Bohemian National Cemetery dedicated to some of the victims. Books have been written. Websites have been created. Television shows produced.
Again, I think if it wasn’t of concern to your family, why would they bring it up? Just because you have lived somewhere your whole life doesn’t mean you know everything dramatic that ever happened there. How could you?
Want another example? I have a Chicago client who is 100% Italian. His family had connections with news papers and politics. As I research his family and prepare to create a book for him, I’m learning a lot about certain parts of Chicago’s political and ethnic history. I had no idea about some of the big events that happened while his family was living in the city during certain decades. What reason did I have to care or hear about it? My family isn’t Italian. I’m Czech. My family talked about Czech events when we talked about family history. Does that mean my family or the city of Chicago covered up these big events? No. I just had no reason to investigate and had not just stumbled upon them through other research yet.
These are important things to keep in mind not only when you start getting upset that you have never heard of such a big and tragic event, but also when you work on the history of your family. Look at the local history. Compare a timeline of major events to your families. You may discover something you never knew before.
- Czechs in Chicago (examiner.com)