Now What: Research Your Ancestor’s Railroad Accident

By David A. Fryxell Premium

Q. Family lore says my great-grandfather died in a railroad accident in Colorado. But I can’t find death records or accounts of such an accident. Where could I look?
A. Colorado researchers looking to expand on their knowledge of ancestors’ lives (or deaths) can use the free online Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection of more than 900,000 digitized pages from more than 200 newspapers published in Colorado primarily from 1859 to 1923. You can search the whole collection or browse by title, date or county to find an account of your ancestor’s accident. Click the Search tab to search on exact phrases (such as “railroad accident”), all or any of the words you type, and to narrow by date, county and/or title.
You could also try the Historical Records Index Search at the Colorado State Archives. This name search, which you can narrow by record type, county and/or date range, covers a variety of historical materials. Among those of interest in this case are death, burial and coroner records.
A highly specific resource you’ll also want to check is the extensive list of Colorado Train Wrecks and Accidents at Each is linked to a transcribed account of the accident, usually from a newspaper of the time.
Colorado Train 
Image courtesy of Detroit Publishing Co, P., Jackson, W. H., photographer. The Florida special. Florida, None. [Between 1880 and 1897] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

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