International Firefighters' Day

May 4th is International Firefighters’ Day. This observance began in 1999 in an effort to remember the deaths of five firefighters who died in a wildfire at Linton in Victoria, Australia.

Today, in honor of all firefighters, we want to highlight IFLODD, the Illinois Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths digital image collection database which documents the ultimate sacrifice of more than 800 Illinois firefighters over the past 156 years. The database has a basic search which allows searching by name, year, agency or type of firefighter. A sophisticated advanced search contains options for searching by details such as type of incident, incident location, cause of death, etc. Additional features include a slide show on funerals; image and audio searches; interactive charts; and an online tutorial.

While some entries have very basic information about the circumstances of the death, others include photographs and oral history presented as audio and text. For example, from this entry we learn that August Kirchoff, just 17, was the first Peoria fireman killed in the line of duty. He died from injuries sustained while fighting a fire at the Gus Lisey City Brewery at 705 North Water Street.

“Around 12:30AM, just four hours after the initial alarm and less than 30 minutes after Kirchoff’s appointment, disaster struck. Five firemen– John McKee, James Hazzard, Fred Brons, Harry Palmer and August Kirchoff– were advancing a hoseline into the ruins of the malt house when a huge brick wall crashed down upon them. With brick and mortar piled high above the fallen men, firefighters and officers alike worked frantically to free them. McKee, Hazzard, Palmer and Brons eventually recovered from their injuries. Kirchoff, however, died from a fractured skull.”

Images of the building as well as August’s grave marker are also provided.

The earliest entries for Chicago list the names of 10 firefighters killed on October 19, 1857. All of them died when the structures they were trying to save collapsed. A search of the Chicago Tribune uncovered a detailed article of the event, with the headline: “TERRIBLE CONFLAGRATION. Loss Over Five Hundred Thousand Dollars! THIRTEEN LIVES LOST.”

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Excitement is building for “Looking for a Home," the first annual African-American Genealogy Conference cohosted by the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Madison African-American Genealogy Writing Group, which will be held June 21-22, 2013, at the Pyle Center in Madison. “This conference will provide a scholarly blend of speakers headlined by Tony Burroughs, with a broad range of topics that will capture all researchers’ interests,” says Lori Bessler, one of conference organizers and a Society Genealogy Reference Librarian who teaches genealogy classes. Tony Burroughs is an internationally known genealogist, author, and lecturer, who taught genealogy at Chicago State University for 15 years. He lectures throughout the USA and Canada, having delivered more than 80 lectures at national conferences. His book, Black Roots: A Beginner’s Guide to Tracing the African American Family Tree was number one on Essence magazine's Best Seller List. Burroughs received many honors including the Distinguished Service Award from the National Genealogical Society and Fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association. In 2012, he received a fellowship from the Black Metropolis Research Consortium to research the Underground Railroad in Chicago. In 2005, he was selected as one of 5000 African Americans to be included in a video oral history archive by The History Makers. Other speakers include Walter T. McDonald, coauthor of Finding Freedom: The Untold Story of Joshua Glover, Runaway Slave; and Crystal Moten, from the Department of History, University of Wisconsin Madison. Moten will talk about Finding and Telling Their Stories: Black Women’s Lives and Experiences in the Historical Record; James Hansen, Society Genealogy Reference Librarian, will discuss African-American Newspapers and Periodicals; and Lori Bessler will discuss Navigating Ancestry and FamilySearch. Members of the following Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison African-American Genealogy Writing Group, Wisconsin Black Historical Society, and Chapters of the African-American Historical and Genealogical Society, AAHGS, and AAGS receive a discount. Prior to or after the conference, researchers can visit the Wisconsin Historical Society, one of the top five genealogical collections, with a scope of North American history. Our newspaper and periodical collections are second to that of the Library of Congress, with a rich collection of African-American newspapers and other African-American collections. For additional information or a registration form for the conference, please visit www.wisconsinhistory.org/libraryarchives/classes/. Space is limited, please register early.

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