Chicago Genealogical Society’s Fall Bus Tour: What is a Genealogical Bus Tour?

bus-tour-picThe tour attendees are moved from site to site in a luxury motor coach and with several opportunities to get off the bus for very short walks to explore up close specific locations of tour interests. There is also a lunch stop at Washington Square Park across from the Newberry Library. The bus will be ready for boarding promptly at 9:30 a.m. on October 1st and will depart from the northwest corner of the Ogilvie Transportation Center (Madison and Clinton Streets) in Chicago. The bus returns by 4:00pm to the same location.

Our tour guide is retired history teacher, Craig Pfannkuche. If you have never been on one of our bus tours with Craig as our guide, you don’t know what you are missing. If you have been on one of our tours already, you are usually the first to register. Craig is a terrific tour guide sharing his incredible knowledge of Chicago history and genealogy research every minute of the tour. Ok – we do let him eat lunch.

So what is the genealogical topic for the October 1, 2016 Bus Tour?

Notable Chicago Disasters That Affected Your Ancestor’s Lives

Chicago has been the home of many notable disasters in its history beginning, of course, with the Ft. Dearborn “Massacre.” Genealogists might question why a genealogical society would sponsor such a ghoulish tour. The answer is relatively simple and can be found in the manuscripts, books and newspapers created in response to those disasters. They are a great genealogy resource!


Disasters make news. After the question of “What happened?” usually comes the question of who it was who were injured and killed. Lists of the dead and injured are compiled and written down or printed. It is those lists which become treasures of information for family historians. Many of us have family ancestors who were swept up in one way or another in great disasters. The nature of their exit from history can provide us with a great deal of family history information. An early 20th century murdering great uncle of the guide for this tour generated 61 pages of newsprint filled with masses of personal family history data! As unfortunate as it was for those overwhelmed by events, the method of their passing or of their survival provides family historians with a marvelous opportunity to give life and historical context to our ancestors.

We ask “What happened to our ancestors who “disappeared” into Chicago?” Why, we wonder, does the trail of family history grow cold in the depths of the city’s anonymous hustle and bustle? Were they killed in a train wreck? Did they burn to death in a “famous” fire? Were they jailed or hung after an infamous trial? Were they shot in a gangland shooting or did they survive drowning in a maritime disaster? Did they fall out of the sky in an airplane crash? Were they imprisoned in a large prisoner of war compound and died there?

The CGS bus tour will visit many such sites. Our guide Craig Pfannkuche will tell the stories of these disasters and suggest where the lists of dead and injured can be found. Hopefully, other fellow travelers will tell the stories of their own ancestors swept up in a notable Chicago disaster as well. Note: there will be four stops off the bus and one four block walk.

Seats are limited and reservations are required. First come, first reserved. Fee based on member/non-member and optional lunch. Registration is now open. Print out the reservation form to mail in or pay online We will meet at the Ogilvie Transportation Center in downtown Chicago at 9:30am on October 1st.


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What is a Genealogical Bus Tour?