Casey Edward Greene, a scholar at Galveston’s Rosenberg Library, spoke to the Houston Genealogical Forum Saturday about his effort to profile thousands of victims of the 1900 hurricane that devastated the island.
“What drives me is a sense of mission,” he said. “This isn’t an ordinary research project. I believe I’m bringing justice to these folks.”
Greene is pooling a wide variety of resources from before and after the event to create a searchable database. The resources include city directories, U.S. censuses, church records, tax abstracts, insurance records, online services, county histories and other genealogical works, newspaper accounts and even death records, although there are relatively few.
“It’s detective work,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. It’s very meaningful and as far as I know no one’s ever done it.”
The Sept. 8, 1900, disaster remains the deadliest storm in America’s history, he said, but the exact death toll is unknown. Estimates range from about 5,000 to 8,000.
Greene, who co-authored a 2002 book about the storm, told the audience at the Bayland Community Center that he has found that existing victim lists may name one or two members of a family, when in all likelihood the entire family appears to have perished.
“How tragic is it that these folks were not allowed to live their lives and they were caught unawares?” Greene said. “For this reason alone, I think they ought to be remembered.”
The database eventually will be accessible to the public, but will probably always be a “work in progress,” he said.
People will be encouraged to contact the library if they have additional information.