Tumultuous, Terrific, Tragic, and Treasured Times . . .


The word “tumultuous” best describes my personal little world over these past 30 or so days. I know my family’s events pale in comparison to the tragic and horrific events precipitated mostly by mean-spirited, greedy, and angry people of our world at large. To maintain my sanity and not be overwhelmed or sickened inside by these larger tragedies I choose to focus on my biological and spiritual family and how we love and support each other through the good and sometimes challenging times.

chesapeak-beachSo, let’s start with the obvious, that is the “tumultuous” August weather along the Delmarva coast.   We experienced severe periods of record setting weather – from the very high temperatures, to threats of tornadoes and hurricanes, high winds, and unusual flooding conditions due to heavy downpours of rain in very short periods of time. Roads were closed, trees were toppled, electricity came and went, but together, we “weathered” these days.

Among the Dickinson and Boling extended family we celebrated still having five living generations – a rarity in today’s world.  And, on this rare occasion we gathered everyone available from down the east coast and across the world from among our family total of 42 members.  In fact, we celebrated five of them on a single day in August at our daughter Jen and her husband, Brian’s, beautiful and spacious new home. The birthday celebrants ages were 16, 24, 25, 48, and 89 – a broad mix of personalities and generations that range from the millennials, (16-34), to generation X (ages 35-50), to me, (the only baby boomer), and then the silent generation (ages 72-93).  From a gender split perspective, only 2 out of every 5 family members are female.  The youngest and the oldest of those being celebrated were females; three were born under the sign of Leo, the Lion (the earlier mentioned two females and one male); two of the guys birthdays fell under the Virgo sign (a father and son).  And, when all of us converged, it made for more fun times, great memories, and interesting, often amusing, conversations.

fr-worch-in-heartsOn the day of the big birthday party, we learned of the death of a very near and dear family friend, (he passed on our son’s actual birthday). Father Don pastored to our family during some challenging times in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.  He was the man in our lives that most closely followed in Jesus’ footsteps and lived his life as Jesus would have wanted him to.  So now,  just four short days after spending good times with family, it was time to switch our attention and emotional gears from celebrating birthdays to attending our friend’s very large and sobering funeral in Potomac, MD.

Following the funeral, God came to me.   He said to me in but a whisper;  “I’m adding an item to your bucket list.  You are to get up on your church’s stage and publicly share my word among your biblical community.” Next, Satan tried to steal me by infusing great FEAR into me. But, God was there as He always is. He said “I am calling you to do this!” And, the next week, at the meeting of our EDGE drama ministry, it appeared that most everyone would be off doing end of summer vacations or had other business and family commitments.  The EDGE was one actor short of completing its cast for next week’s message.  So there it was, God’s plan for me once again put in place.

So, this weekend, at my age, I took to the stage for my very first time.  The experience was well worth it.  I’m told that not only am I now an “actor,” but that I should ignore all those who have told me that I can’t sing – or, that I should sing “solo,” i.e., so low no one else can hear me. – I think I might possibly return to that stage at some point in the far distant future, but I probably will forego the singing, (because I think someone fibbed to me about my singing talents).

jackson-dickinsonAnd, on the evening of my first acting experience, our family got some fantastic news. Our eldest grandson, Joe, and his lovely wife Corrie had become a family of three, with the birth of their first child, Jackson.  This means I’ll have to add a trip South to my bucket list so we can meet  face to face with our fifth great grandchild.

Although I married very young, and am no longer a spring chicken, this baby boomer’s count of grandchildren and great grandchildren has already exceeded my wildest dreams at 14!   chelsea-six-monthsAnd by thanksgiving, we’ll likely add one to this number, making it 15. That’s when our second oldest grandson, Justin, and his wife, Chelsea’s, little boy is due, making them a family of five.

And, despite my attempts to end this post on a happy note, we have just contacted the FBI to report that we have been scammed out of half of our property tax savings for this year.

BEWARE:   If you are in search of a part time job and come across an offer to be a mystery shopper for “Applied Research Masters Center,” it’s a new scam out there.  They will send you a check for $1,850 which you are to deposit in your savings account; keeping $350 as your commission.  You are then go to a store that sells iTunes Gift Cards and purchase $1,500 worth among three cards, to ready yourself for your next assignment.  Here’s the crux of the scam:  you send them photos of the newly purchased cards with the serial numbers on them and the place of purchase.  Needless to say, after the bank returned the check  to us this morning and we called iTunes, we found that the cards had already been redeemed.  We can only pray that this is where the scam ends.  My husband is at our bank now as I share this post with you. I guess this final event, puts the capital “T’s” on “tumultuous” and “tragic.”  And, a big “L” on “Lessons Learned.”

 

Thanks Charlie–One Man’s Genealogical Random Act of Kindness


This video shows the great work ethic and commitment this man has for honoring those who paved the way for the rest of us in this world.  As a genealogical enthusiast, I can relate to this man’s passion for identifying and uncovering the lost people and histories of our families. In fact, I volunteer for Findagrave.com.  When family members who do not live locally want pictures of their loved ones’ grave markers, I go to the cemeteries within my locale to find those gravesites and to create or add to a memorial page on findagrave.com for that person and his family.

Founder of Find A Grave Website

FindAGraveFounder-Jim TiptonIt was Jim Tipton, who created the Find A Grave website in 1995 because he could not find an existing site that catered to his hobby of visiting the graves of famous people. He found that there were many thousands of folks around the world who shared his interests. What began as an odd hobby became a livelihood and a passion. Building and seeing Find A Grave grow beyond his wildest expectations has been immensely satisfying for Jim. Every day, contributors from around the world enter new records, thousands use the site as an educational reference tool, to locate long-lost loved ones and millions of lives are fondly remembered.

We often are disappointed when we find a headstone that is illegible due to the weather and the passing of time.  Some of us try cleaning the headstones as best we can.  However, if  we use the wrong techniques and solutions, we risk permanently damaging or destroying the grave marker further over time.

So, I’m very glad “Charlie,” made it his mission to clean each gravestone at the West Dennis Cemetery, (AKA Crowell Family Cemetery) as a tribute to those whom have passed as well as their families.  The dates of death on these gravestones range from 1809 to 1849–about 150 to 200 years old. After three years, 3-to-5 days a week, and about 800 gravestones already cleaned, Charlie probably still has another year before finishing all the grave markers in this cemetery!  Let’s hope this story triggers more volunteers at more cemeteries.

Our Ancestors’ Died From What?


Death Certificates Validate Our Lives

The primary purpose of a death certificate is to explain how or why people died. The only thing we know for sure is that people died because they were born; because they were mortal.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that roughly fifty million people in the world this year will die.  This figure includes every fatality in every developed nation on earth. Yet, only about half of all deaths will be recorded with a death certificate. The other half of the world’s people will die in the poorest of places, which maintain no end-of-life documentation.

Before modern death certificates, England, in the early 16th century, had a form known as the Bill of Mortality. No earlier civilizations kept track of their people’s deaths. However, church records of baptisms and burials and recordings of these events by family members within their family bibles offer good proxies for formal records of births and deaths.

Other Vital Statistics Information

The registration of births, marriages, and deaths has a long history in the United States, beginning with a registration law enacted by Virginia in 1632 and a modification of this law enacted by Massachusetts in 1639. Later, when the U.S. Constitution was framed, provision was made for a decennial census but not a national vital registration system; this latter function remained with the states. To obtain national data, the decennial censuses in the latter half of the nineteenth century included questions about vital events, but the method was recognized as inefficient and the results as deficient.

Deaths Registered in Harwich, MA, for the Year 1870

The copy below of a page from the death registry of 1870 in Harwich, Barnstable County, MA, includes one of my ancestors, “Betsey Doane,” who died of “childbirth fever,” soon after giving birth.  “Childbirth fever,” is explained later in this post.

Death Records - MAAccordingly, in 1902, when the U.S. Bureau of the Census was made a permanent agency of the federal government, legislation authorized the Director of the Census Bureau to get, annually, copies of records filed in the vital statistics offices of those states and cities having adequate death registration systems and to publish data from these records. A few years earlier, the Census Bureau had issued a recommended death reporting form (the first “U.S. Standard Certificate of Death”) and requested that each independent registration area adopt it as of January 1, 1900. In 1915, the national birth-registration area was established, and by 1933 all states were registering live births and deaths with acceptable event coverage and providing the required facts to the Census Bureau for the production of national birth and death statistics.

In 1946, responsibility for collecting and publishing vital statistics at the federal level was transferred to the U.S. Public Health Service, first in the National Office of Vital Statistics and later (1960) in the NCHS. In 1987, the NCHS became part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which in turn is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Lives, Deaths, And Medicine Over The Past 300 Years

For over two centuries doctors have defined people’s medical conditions like burns, asthma, epilepsy, and angina–terms still familiar to us today. However, they also used terms for other commonplace causes of death that we may not recognize today. For instance: ague (malaria), dropsy (edema), or spontaneous combustion (especially of “brandy-drinking men and women”).  Sometimes you might see Causa Mortis Incognita, which means the cause of death was not known and the doctors  wrote it in Latin and not admit in English they didn’t have a clue! Happily, many early 19th and 20th century health conditions that led to death have all but disappeared not only from doctors terminology but the diseases and illnesses themselves, thanks to dramatic advances in hygiene and medicine.

Yellow fever was the noted cause of death on the majority of 5,000+ death certificates issued in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between August 1 and November 9, 1793.  This virus, like malaria, and today’s Zika virus, was carried and transferred by mosquitoes.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, hundreds of thousands of women died needlessly following childbirth from puerperal fever.  Unwashed hands and medical instruments introduced bacteria into women’s uterine tracts triggering this killer infection.

Before the mid-20th century, my family and I were fortunate enough to be among the first people in the United States to receive vaccines to fight smallpox, polio and measles – diseases which once killed thousands of people each year.

Prior to Sir Alexander Fleming’s, accidental discovery of Penicillin in 1929, the use of maggots to clean away dead tissue from infected wounds was commonplace.  Leeches were popular with doctors for blood-letting to “balance” the four humors (blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile) and to bring an ill patient back into good health. Many quacks also peddled “snake oil elixirs,” as “cure-all medicines.

Below, I used my genealogy software to generate this sample report of 15 persons causes of death from various branches of my ancestral tree dating back to 1617-1944.  Aside from name, birth and death dates, it gives age at death and causes as written by physicians on their death certificates, with only one exception.  The last entry–Pocahontas’ cause of death description–comes from many historical writings about her life and death.

Causes of Death - My Family Tree Sample

 

 

You can follow and understand my ancestor’s causes of death rather easily with only a few exceptions of now archaic terms like “acute gastrointestinal auto intoxication,” “childbirth fever,” and “diphtheria,” similar to other now dated causes of death that I mentioned earlier. In today’s terminology infant “Bessie Charlotte Chambers,” died of blood poisoning; i.e., “toxemia,” a condition in which the blood has toxins produced by body cells at a local source of infection or derived from the growth of microorganisms, possibly from her milk.

Death Certificate-Bessie Charlotte ChambersDiphtheria once was a major cause of illness and death among children.  It is transmitted from person-to-person through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include sore throat, loss of appetite, and fever. The most notable feature of diphtheria, is the a thick gray substance called a pseudomembrane that forms over nasal tissues, tonsils, larynx, and/or pharynx. The United States recorded 206,000 cases of diphtheria in 1921, resulting in 15,520 deaths. Diphtheria was the third leading cause of death in children in England and Wales in the 1930s.

Since the introduction of effective immunization, starting in the 1920s, diphtheria rates have dropped dramatically in the United States and other countries that vaccinate widely. Between 2004 and 2008, no cases of diphtheria were recorded in the United States. However, the disease continues to play a role globally. In 2007, 4,190 cases of diphtheria were reported, which is likely an underestimate of the actual number of cases.

Finally, below, I have included a table many more terms that genealogists and family historians may come across in their research of family members lives.

Obsolete Medical Terms and Definitions

TERM:

DEFINITION:

AGUE

Used to describe recurring fever and chills of malaria; can mean any fever with chills

BILIOUSNESS

Jaundice or other symptoms associated with liver disease

CHLOROSIS

Iron deficiency anemia

CHOLERA INFANTUM

Summer diarrhea of infants usually the first summer after weaning from breastfeeding

CORRUPTION

Infection

CORYZA

A cold

COSTIVENESS

Constipation

CRAMP COLIC

Appendicitis

CREEPING PARALYSIS

Tabes dorsalis (syphilis)

DENTITION

Infantile convulsions; febrile seizures; infected dental caries (cavities); mercury poisoning from teething powders

DEBILITY

“Failure to thrive” in infancy or old age or loss of appetite and weight from undiagnosed T.B. or cancer.

DROPSY

Edema (swelling), sometimes caused by kidney or heart disease.

DYSPEPSIA

Acid indigestion

ECLAMPSIA

Convulsions of any cause; later applied more specific

EXTRAVASATED BLOOD

Rupture of blood vessel

FALLING SICKNESS

Epilepsy

FLUS OF HUMOUR

Circulation

FRENCH POX

Venereal disease

GALLOPING CONSUMPTION

Rapidly progressing tuberculosis

GREEN SICKNESS

Anemia

HEMORRHAGE AND INFLAMMATION

Ruptured aneurysm or swollen lymph nodes or superficial cancer with ulceration and bleeding; swollen lymph nodes from chronic infection, such as T. B., brucella, anthracis, staphylococcus, etc.

HIP GOUT

Osteomyelitis

JAIL FEVER

Typhus

KING’S EVIL

Scrofula (T.B. of lymph glands, especially of neck)

LUES VENERA

Venereal disease

LUMBAGO

Back pain

LUNG FEVER

Pneumonia

LUNG SICKNESS

Tuberculosis

MALIGNANT FEVER

Fever with hemolysis; malaria with hemorrhagic skin rash; meningococcal infection; putrid malignant fever; typhoid.

MANIA

Insanity

MARASMUS & DROPSY OF THE BRAIN

Hydrocephalus and wasting of the body

MILK LEG

Thrombosis in femoral vein, often after childbirth; death from pulmonary embolism or pelvic infection (usual cause for milk leg)

MORTIFICATION

Gangrene usually of the leg; trauma; infection; diabetes; aneurysm of aorta

NOSTALGIA

Homesickness

A PERIPNEUMONIA

Pneumonia plus pleurisy (inflammation of the pleura usually with fever, painful & difficult respiration, cough and fluid into the pleural cavity)

PUTRID FEVER

Diphtheria

PUTRID SORE THROAT

Gangrenous pharyngitis; tonsillitis with peritonsillar or retropharyngeal abscess.

QUINSY

Tonsillitis

REMITTING FEVER

Malaria

ROSE COLD

Hay fever incorrectly thought to be caused by rose pollen.

SANGUINEOUS CRUST

Scab

SCREWS

Rheumatism

SCROFULA

See KING’S EVIL

SHIP’S FEVER

Typhus

SOFTENING OF THE BRAIN

Dementia (Syphilitic or nonsyphilitic); cerebral hemorrhage; stroke

STOMACH TROUBLE

Complication of gastric ulcer perforation plus pancreatitis, hemorrhage, cancer.

STRANGERY

Rupture

SUMMER COMPLAINT

Diarrhea and vomiting; gastroenteritis

THROAT DISTEMPER

Tonsillitis; diphtheria

VENESECTION

Bleeding