Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Coal Mining Resources - Tuesday's Tip

I have coal mining ancestors whose end I cannot find:  John Froman and Abel Armitage.  I am always interested in new sources to help me learn about mining accidents in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.  Sometimes the sources do not include names (as in the one below) but give me information about accidents and the work of coal mining. 

Even if you don't have Pennsylvania ancestors you may find some interesting and/or helpful information in Gerald E. Sherard's Pennsylvania Mine Accidents, 1869 - 1972.   The document includes a history of the discovery of coal in Pennsylvania; mining accidents with dates, locations, and numbers of deaths; and possible causes of mining accidents in Pennsylvania.  As I said, you will not find the name of an ancestor in this document but if you have a coal mining ancestor whose exact death date you cannot discover but can narrow to a few years, it may help you determine whether he may have died in a mining accident.  Mr. Sherard also discusses laws regarding mining and gives links to other mining resources that may help find your mining ancestor. 

No matter where your coal mining ancestor worked, one part of this publication that may be of interest to you is the several pages of glossary of mining terms.  I learned jobs I didn't know existed and clear definitions of words I assumed I knew but may have mis-defined.

For example, a "spragger" is "a laborer who rides trains of cars and controls their free movement down gently sloping inclines by throwing switches and by poking sprags (short, stout, metal or wooden rods) between the wheels' spokes to stop them." 

"Naked light" is "an open flame in a miner's lantern or helmet light; open light; no safety light." 

A "trip" is "a small train of mine cars."

There was danger at every turn.  It's no surprise that we descendants of coal miners wonder if they died in  mine accidents, especially when we can find no reference to them after one date or another and no information about their deaths.

Other posts about coal mining:
> Coal Miners in My Family
> Once a Miner, Twice a Breaker Boy - Tuesday's Tip



  1. I have a few coal miners among distant ancestors in southwest Virginia and on my husband's side in West Virginia.

  2. The job of coal miners is very risky. I have a distant relative who was in this area of work. He tells me how hard the life of coal miner is and that how dangerous it is.


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