November 15, 2013
I am generally quite excited when I find birth / death dates while visiting a cemetery or see photo posted on Findagrave. My first thought would be “these dates are correct”, however, I have come to realize that’s not necessarily so.
I found findagrave entries with photographs for 2 of the children of John K Comfort and his wife R.A. Stephens in Mississippi. This son and daughter were listed with their parents in numerous census records where their ages and even their recorded names varied some over the decades.
Trofmoc, the son (in case you couldn’t tell) has a birth date of April 21, 1863 on his gravestone. His sister Exermenia’s gravestone shows her birth date as Sept 27 of the same year. I DON”T THINK SO ! How does that happen?
Obviously there can be problems with keeping track of a person’s birth date especially if they live a long life and a younger family member becomes the one to provide the dates to be inscribed on the stone. If a birth or christening record can be found, that’s likely quite accurate. I did not find either in this case.
Going back through the various census records, the brother is always recorded as older, even if not by much. The fact that he died at age 30 when his mother was still alive and living in the same locale, I tend to trust that he WAS born in 1863. By the time his sister died 50 years later, it is understandable that there might have been confusion over her exact birth year.
So, the bottom line is that I still don’t know, but strongly question Exermenia’s birth year and will just remain much more vigilant in seeking documented confirmation of birth and death years rather than considering a gravestone to be accurate.
November 6, 2013
These families were neighbors in Ulster County, NY and variously connected by marriage. Jointly they made an immense contribution to the union’s efforts in the Civil War.
Simon McConnell and Charles Mansfield were the oldest volunteers of this group. They both joined Company D, NY 156th Infantry along with Charles’ sons Josiah and Isaac. Sadly, both the fathers died from the effects of uncontrollable dysentery in 1863 leaving wives and young children at home. They were buried in Louisiana where they died.
Simon’s sons Edgar and Carmile McConnell both joined the NY 56th infantry and son Alexander joined the 1st Cavalry. Both the McConnell family and the Mansfield family married into the Lake family. Alex McConnell married Sarah Jane Lake, sister of Reuben who married Charles Mansfield’s daughter Sarah Ann. Many veteran brothers-in-law!
The young men fought in various units and some lived long lives, others not so long.
LAKE Unit Died
Francis Co D, NY 4th Cavalry 1867 at 21
Reuben Co F, NY 127th Inf 1897 at 52
Carmile Co F, NY 56th Inf 1895 at 50
Alexander Co D, NY 1st Cavalry 1898 at 55
Edgar Co F, NY 56th Inf 1925 at 85
Isaac Co D, NY 156th Inf 1910 at 65
Josiah Co D, NY 156th Inf 1935 at 89
October 23, 2013
In 1854 Dr John W Comfort, age 32, died of Yellow Fever in New Orleans leaving his wife with 3 young children. Further investigation identified a horrific epidemic in numerous southern port cities in the mid 1850s with New Orleans losing 10% of its population to this infection in 1853 with thousands more succumbing in 1854-5. The cause was not known and no cure existed. It made me wonder why Yellow Fever had been such a scourge and why we don’t hear much about it today.
Accounts from individuals present in New Orleans depict a very grim picture of a disease-ridden city filled with the stench of dying and dead bodies in the heat of the summer. The city’s business leaders tried to keep the news quiet as they feared the entire city would be quarantined in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease upriver. Mobile, Charleston, even Philadelphia and Baltimore were infected – port cities !
It is believed that the disease originated in Africa and was introduced to Europe and the Americas by the slave trade. The first definitive report was from Barbados in 1647 and soon thereafter from the Yucatan Peninsula where the disease was called “ blood vomit”. Patients have fever, convulsive black vomit and develop jaundice as the liver fails (hence, Yellow Fever). Decades passed before the cause was identified and a vaccine developed.
In 1881, a Cuban physician, Carlos Finlay, proposed that Yellow Fever might be transmitted via mosquitoes, but received a cool reception from the medical community at the time. A team led by the now famous Walter Reed, (prompted by heavy losses from the disease in the Spanish-American war) finally confirmed Finlay’s hypothesis in 1901 subsequently leading to the eradication of yellow fever first in Havana and then later during the construction of the Panama Canal.
Yellow fever is a viral disease that is endemic (present at a fairly constant rate) in Africa and South America and transmitted to humans by the bite of female mosquitoes of the Aedes species in Africa and Haemagogus species in South America. The bite of an infected female mosquito introduces virus particles under the skin where replication occurs before spreading via the lymphatic system and bloodstream to the major organs. Symptoms of Yellow Fever start after an incubation period of 3 to 6 days and most non-vaccinated people in endemic areas will suffer a mild infection with fever, chills, backache, headache, nausea and vomiting lasting 3 to 4 days; no jaundice is seen. This acute phase is followed by a period of remission of about two days where symptoms abate and recovery is seen. However, in about 15% of individuals in whom recovery seems apparent, a second ‘toxic’ phase occurs with recurring fever, nausea, liver injury and jaundice, kidney injury and characteristic black vomit due to stomach bleeding. Death, due to multi-organ failure, generally follows in 7 to 10 days killing 20-30% of native Africans who enter this toxic phase, and 50-60% of native South Americans. Surviving the infection confers life-long immunity and typically no permanent organ damage occurs.
The Yellow Fever virus was first isolated in 1927 from a diseased patient in Ghana. This led to the development of a vaccine in 1936 by Max Theiler, a South African microbiologist working at the Rockefeller Institute in NYC, who received the Nobel Prize in 1951 for this achievement. Immunity against all forms of the virus occurs in nearly 100% of vaccinated individuals, lasting for at least 10 years. Since World War II, mainly because of effective vaccination programs, yellow fever is only rarely seen in travelers returning to Europe and North America. Yellow fever has never appeared in Asia. Today, there still is no cure or specific antiviral therapy.
Many thanks to microbiology expert, Dr CJ, for scientific content
October 10, 2013
Elizabeth Roosa was single and listed with her parents in the 1880 census. Little did I know that by 1900 she would be a widow. Had I not happened upon her death record (which resulted from a search under her mother’s maiden name of Margaret Bogardus), I would not have found her.
Interestingly her 1943 Michigan death record named her parents fully (middle names too) but HER HUSBAND WAS NOT NAMED ! She was listed as Elizabeth Frances Wastell, daughter of William and Margaret.
Further searching did identify her 1885 marriage to Englishman Joseph Wastell who died in 1894. Their marriage period falls into that “no 1890 census” gap.
So look at death records, they can provide lots of good “Living” information.
October 3, 2013
In researching the widow Elsie Bogardus Linthicum, I found her in the 1910 census in Baltimore at age 54. She was listed as a servant in the household of the much younger Herbert S Hastings, 35. At first I wondered if he might be a nephew. It didn’t immediately occur to me to check his occupation or to look for additional information about him – but was glad I later did.
Herbert was a native New Yorker (as was Elsie, though not from the same area) and an Episcopal priest who ran the Donaldson School for Boys in Maryland for many years. Elsie and a number of others were servants in his household. After the death of his brother in 1933, he took in his widowed sister-in-law and her children. These little details provide some view into the environment in which Elsie was living. I’m determined now to ALWAYS CHECK out the EMPLOYER !
September 29, 2013
Cause of death for confederate soldier Russell Comfort:
At first I was not sure if it was all one word or an abbreviation. Luckily the military website Fold3 published this explanation:
Vulnus sclopetarium is a wound inflicted by a gunshot. Other similar spellings found included: vulnus sclopeticum (defined as multiple flesh wounds), vuluus sclopet, vul sclopeticum, viel sclopet, and vulius sclopet.
September 7, 2013
I spent some time in the NYC Municipal Archives this week focusing on the Moran family. I wanted to find the marriage certificate for Thomas and wife Agnes and then a birth certificate for their son.
I was quite sure they married in 1928 and found an apparent match. But, it was NOT the right Thomas. The one who married Agnes Cosgrove in 1928 was born in NYC, was a stableman and lived in Manhattan. The one I was searching for was a tugboat captain, born in Ulster County and lived in Brooklyn.
I searched again and again, but did not find them. However, I will post my findings on message boards for Moran and Cosgrove to help those who might want this information but are not able to get to NYC. Perhaps one day someone else will find my Thomas and will help me out by posting the information.