Monday, 26 March 2018

#52Ancestors, Week 12, Misfortune

Misfortune. Lucky one week, unlucky the next ? A series of unfortunate events ?

Some years ago while doing some searching “alongside” my 4th cousin in the UK about the family line we share, and more particularly her branch of that line we came across a very sad discovery.

Two of my great grandmother’s cousins; brothers, moved their families from Wolverhampton to Glasgow around the turn of the century. The elder brother went first with his wife and young son between 1894 and 1897. About ten years later the younger brother followed with his wife and three young children.

Arthur and Martha (yes it’s true) had already lost one baby aged about eighteen months before travelling north. On the 1911 Scots census it stated that they had had eight children but only four were living. That itself was quite sad to learn. The determination to go on, to have more babies when you have lost so many in infancy, just astounds me.

From ScotlandsPeople we had built a picture of their family including the “unknown” children who had lived briefly between 1901 and 1911. Then an email arrived from my cousin to say she had been doing some more searching.

She had purchased the death certificate for Martha, who had died in February 1930. Martha it seemed came to an unfortunate end, so the search of newspapers began to see what might be uncovered. And this is where the misfortune became apparent.

The newspaper reported that Arthur had come home in the middle of the day for his dinner and discovered the grisly scene. It was reported that Martha was greatly upset about the death of her daughter Emma who had died earlier in the week and been buried the previous day. The timing of Emma’s death had brought to the surface the memory of another daughter who had died aged sixteen, just three years earlier.

What was going on here ?

But, this was a double tragedy as Martha did not just take her own life, she also had inflicted serious injury to their youngest daughter who died soon after Arthur had arrived home. Martha’s despair must have been enormous, and the guilt for Arthur; that had he been moments earlier he may have been able to avert the tragedy.

This led me to use up my credits on ScotlandsPeople and purchase more death certificates. The names of the unknown babies were discovered and the causes of death for their children.

Martha Agnes
23 November 1905
Broncho-Pneumonia 28days Cardiac Asthemia 1day
13 January 1907
Premature Birth Asthemia
9 March 1909
Acute Bronchitis Convulsions
Minnie Mildred
9 February 1927
Percarditis ? Endocarditis, Cardiac Failure
Emma Elizabeth
4 February 1930
Embolism of Heart
8 February 1930
Haemorrhage, cut throat
8 February 1930
Haemorrhage , cut throat
Arthur George
9 July 1932 –
Cardiac Failure, Acute endocarditis, Mitral Stenosis

It all pointed sadly to a genetic heart defect, seemingly passed on to at least six of their children.

How difficult must it have been to live with that, and how unjust must it have seemed that you lost so many babies. In December 1906 when baby Charles was born, Arthur’s seventeen year old unmarried half sister Ellen was staying with the family and gave birth to her own daughter at their home that month.

I wonder how each mother felt, one bereft and one grateful.

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