Posted by Juliana Szucs on January 7, 2014 in Ask Juliana, Moments in Time

20140106Blizzard1888NYCKnowing what was going on in the world can give you a fresh perspective on your ancestors. Here’s a look at the events of 1888. I’ll take a look at historical events from other years in future posts.

 The year was 1888 and it came in with a roar. Following an unseasonably warm morning, on January 12th, a violent cold front brought with it a disastrous blizzard with raging winds and sub-zero temperatures that swept across the northern prairies of the Midwest. Caught in the storm, often referred to as the “Children’s Blizzard of 1888,” it has been estimated that between 250 and 500 people perished, many of them children on their way home from school.

And Mother Nature wasn’t finished. In March, another blizzard struck the eastern seaboard states. Known as the “Great White Hurricane,” the nor’easter dumped between forty and fifty inches of snow on the northeast region. Over 200 ships were sunk, and telegraph lines snapped, cutting off communication for cities like New York and Philadelphia for weeks. More than 400 people perished in the storm.

Over the ocean in London’s East End (England), fear spread as the police raced to discover who was committing a string of gruesome murders. Nearly 118 years later, the identity of “Jack the Ripper” remains unknown and the mystery has spawned books and movies that have horrified and mystified audiences worldwide.

Susan B. Anthony helped found the International Council of Women, an international coalition established to help secure women’s suffrage and rights in many areas.

Technological advances that year include a patent obtained by Thomas Edison for his “Kinetoscope” used for motion pictures.

George Eastman began the Eastman Kodak Company and introduced rolled photographic film. With the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest,” he led the way in an industry that has given family historians (and the rest of the world) glimpses into the lives of their ancestors and preserved memories for future generations.

An election year in the U.S., 1888 wound down with the election of Benjamin Harrison, who defeated the incumbent Grover Cleveland in a particularly tight election, with Cleveland winning the popular vote, but losing key states and the electoral vote.

Juliana Szucs

Juliana Szucs has been working for for more than 19 years. She began her family history journey trolling through microfilms with her mother at the age of 11. She has written many articles for online and print genealogical publications and wrote the "Computers and Technology" chapter of The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Juliana holds a certificate from Boston University's Online Genealogical Research Program.


  1. Sandra Phinney

    A few years ago, when I was just starting to look up my family, there were articles on Ancestry about events for each decade from 1800 thru 1900, not sure it was for the whole hundred years. Could you give us access to that? I am so sorry I didn’t print them out, but thought they would be available.
    Thank You. I love the history ‘windows’.

  2. Juliana Smith

    Unfortunately Sandra, the “Look at the Decade” series is currently not available online, but I’ll see if I can get them reposted in the Learning Center.

  3. Jeanette Taylor

    Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication. It certainly helps having good verifiable information. I’m discovering how tedious it can be in researching Families with last names of Smith, Taylor, & Jones!

  4. Hello Julianna. Love the article. What is your / Ancestry’s policy about linking to articles on this website. Would love to link to articles like this on my blog for family members to read. Thank you

    • Juliana Smith

      Hi Phyllis, Thanks for the kind words about the article, and we’d love for you to link back to it from your website. I’ll be featuring other years periodically so stay tuned. Have a great day!

  5. Victoria L. Sullivan

    My mother’s Uncle Ed always said he “came in with the Blizzard of ’88”. Since he was born in April 1888 in NJ, he must have meant the second storm. Thank you for the information on an old family story!

  6. Elizabeth L. Allred

    Yes Jeanette Smith”s and what about all the “Mary’s” to go with the Smith’s! One side of my family has so many Smith’s and Mary’s I’m beginning to really wonder. Thank You Elizabeth L.Allred

  7. Luanne

    I love this type of information but I wish there was a printer-friendly option with it so I could easily file a copy with my ancestors that it pertains to–two of my grandparents were born in the winter of 1888.

Comments are closed.