Showing posts with label Family Search. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family Search. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Small Town Deals with Smallpox

Drawing accompanying text in Book XII of the 16th-century Florentine Codex (compiled 1540–1585), showing Nahuas of conquest-era central Mexico suffering from smallpox.

I love using the FamilySearch records as a resource. I mentioned before that I found that many of the records I thought were original turn out to be 19th Century copies. The originals, I discovered, were still unindexed on FamilySearch.
I've been combing through the Holden, Massachusetts town records for the traces of my Rogers ancestors.  These original records are fascinating because they combine birth records, death records, marriage records and minutes from the town meetings. And it was at one town meeting that I discovered this:

Clearly the people of Holden knew that people with smallpox needed to be isolated and went to the extreme measure of creating a hospital to contain the disease. In the following entry, dated December 13, 1792 I found this:

The phrase that surprised me was "for all those persons that are now Inoculated in this Town and no more". They were inoculating against smallpox in 1792? This was news to me. But a little searching on the internet told me that no less a person than Cotton Mather was advocating inoculation in 1721. You can read about that here.

I also found out that there were a series of epidemics right up until Jenner's discovery of vaccination in 1796. The colonists had a crude form of vaccination and this website provided this information:
"There was, however, a catch: individuals under inoculation did come down with smallpox, and they were therefore fully capable of infecting others with the disease. Unless practised under strict quarantine, the operation was as likely to start an epidemic as to stop one. For this reason, inoculation was highly controversial in the English colonies, where smallpox outbreaks were comparatively rare."
So this explains why a hospital was necessary for the vaccinated. Smallpox runs through a series of stages over a few months, so it would have been imperative to house these people for a while. It was a far more benign solution than the one I found here. North Brookfield is only a few miles west of Holden and this would have been in 1788, a few years before the outbreak in Holden.

The History Today website tells us that there were a series of outbreaks during the American Revolution that affected fighting in both New England and the South and into Canada. From there the disease moved west. Of course we know that the disease devastated the Native American population. I was heartened to find that the town of Holden embraced the idea of inoculation(controversial at the time), did not banish the sick, and did not consider the disease "God's judgment"(another popular idea in Puritan America). Just another window into the lives of my ancestors.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Pruning and Maintaining my Tree

I hate loose ends. When I look at my online tree at Ancestry, nothing makes me crazier than seeing this
No birth or death date.
I was amazed at how often just entering a guess for the birth date will help. Start with a date the same year as the spouse's birth. Very often the hints on Ancestry just pop up.
And there we are! I never did find a sure death date for her, but I found a death date under Minnie Tapply. I used a resource I found looking for Dora North and Frank Summerfield Tapply.
So these entries for the reading of wills very often name the spouse as beneficiary (so you can be sure you have the right person with the myriad Tapplys and Tapleys) and give the place of residence. By entering this place in Dora North's  file, I found her death entry and I used the same method for Minnie.
I've been going through the tree trying this methods with people on both sides of the Atlantic, and I've at least got either a birth or death date for the older parts of the tree. Amazing how entering a date and possible location unlocks those doors.

The next problem I tackled was this:

I've been round and round on this portion of the Smith family. Marion L. Smith had four children. Two were named Dietche and two were named Otto. I felt sure that there had been two marriages, but I couldn't find any record anywhere for the two children or for her. And her second husband was Otto Dietche. Was this a record mistake? I didn't think so. Her marriage record and the census name her as a widow. So I went back to the son and tried again on Family Search.
And lo and behold this showed up:
There it is. Allan G Otto in Fitchburg, Massachusetts who seemed to have died just after the birth of the two children. So plugging THAT into the tree for father and Robert Allan Otto for the son, the hints just fell into place. I found a directory entry for Allan and Marian living in Fitchburg just a year before his death.  I also  found exact birth, marriage and death dates for the children and neatly tied up another loose end.

It doesn't work every time. Older records are difficult. Families with many people of the same name are almost impossible. But using FindaGrave, Family Search and Ancestry I've made good progress. I found a few duplicates, loose ends, branches that needed pruning altogether and satisfied my own urge to tidy up the tree.  It may only be January, but it's time to try a little spring cleaning.