Tuesday, 23 May 2017

You Can’t Keep Everything

There have been many articles and blog posts about preserving memorabilia. I try to read as many as I can find because I have a great deal of “stuff” I’d like to keep and pass along to others who might be interested in having it.

I wrote a while back about preserving pictures in photo albums for future generations by scanning the books and putting the images online (Digitizing Memories). That way, no matter where family members live they will be able to access them and copy them if they wish.

Like all family historians, I have collected birth, marriage and death certificates, wills, census records and other personal documents. I still have all our children’s report cards and many school artwork projects. The school material has also been scanned and is online where our kids and their kids can read them. Many documents were obtained in digital format and are stored on my computer (and saved in the cloud) rather than in hard copy in binders. Bit by bit I am weeding out the paper copies and discarding them – except for the original records handed down from previous generations.

My goal is to lighten the load for future generations by keeping only physical memorabilia – like the cream can and pitch fork that belonged to my grandfather – and official records that were actually owned and used by family members. My children may not have the room (or the interest) to store the material, so I will likely contact an archives office to see if they might be interested in having the documents, antiques and other memorabilia.

I read a recent blog post by Melissa Barker on Geneabloggers of interest (The Archive Lade: Preserving Old Negatives). She described how to preserve the original films. Many of us have these, either in envelopes attached to photo albums or in protective archival sleeves. I still have hundreds of negatives and slides that go back to my school days.
 
Some of my old negatives
I also have a box of negatives and several loose ones in photo storage sheets for pictures my parents took as far back as the 1920s. My Dad developed most of his own photos, so many of the negatives were still in rolls, tucked away together in boxes.
 
Some of my Dad's old negatives
The problem, as I found out when I went to have some of them printed again, is that there is no place left that does photofinishing using negatives. They have all gone to digital reproduction. What they will do is scan the negatives and then make prints or give you digital images for you to store. That sounds ok until they give you the price which can be several dollars per picture. For most of us that is totally unrealistic and means the negatives will continue to languish in the boxes they have been in for decades.

I keep all this stuff because, “You never know when you or someone else might want them!” They are still around mostly because they are part of our memories and history and I have a hard time throwing things away.

As much as it pains me, though, negatives and slides are not much good any more unless they can be digitally preserved. And then they really wouldn’t be the actual originals anyway. If the prints from those negatives are properly mounted in albums for people to look at the pages could then be scanned. Then at least you have and can see the documentation of those memories.

My wife keeps telling me, “You can’t keep everything.” That is true but it will likely be someone else who gets rid of it after I’m gone.


Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Mothers' Day and Mother's Birthday

This is a special week for our family, with both Mother’s Day and our Mother’s birthday being remembered. In honour of these occasions I am presenting a piece written by my sister that so wonderfully illustrates our feelings about our late Mom.

Mom’s Cook Book
by Janice Ellen Jensen

On May 18, 2017 my mother would have been 100 years old. If we, her family, were to have the good fortune of still having her with us, we would no doubt be planning a celebration to honour such a milestone birthday. But even without the cake and the balloons I will still commemorate the day simply by remembering her and what she meant to me. I don’t really need a landmark occasion to remember her because I think of my Mom often, if not every day.

Today I am looking through her cook book – the Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book. The book was published in 1942 and I can’t help but wonder how she acquired it. Was it a gift from a friend or a family member or did she treat herself and purchase it? The book purports to have “useful information” on everything from table-settings to preserving and indeed it does. It was Mom’s go-to recipe book for most of her baking and family meals. The copy I have is well thumbed and stained from decades of use, but it is not just the recipes in the book that are memorable. It is all the recipes and notes tucked between the pages and written in the margins.
 
The cover of Mom's Woman's Home Companion Cook Book
There is her expired library card, certainly used to mark a page – most likely for “Hazel’s Pastry” which was written on a blank page. There were two significant Hazels in her life and I wonder which Hazel gave her this great recipe for pie dough.
 
Hazel's Pastry recipe with Mom's library card used as a page marker
The library card reminds me of the Saturday mornings we went to the Centre Street Library together and how she gave me my love of reading. It was there that she introduced me to Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Green Gables and A Girl of the Limberlost, to mention a few notable books. Some of these books remain on my bookshelf today. Over the years we continued to share our love of books and frequently exchanged our latest read.

There are many recipes from Ellen Smith written in the margins of the book – or even on the backs of envelopes – and stored between the pages. Ellen was a close friend of Mom and loved to cook. Mom chose Ellen as my middle name as she was the first to send flowers when I was born. I still have the locket Ellen gave to me when I was born. No doubt Mom made all of Ellen’s recipes at one time or another and tutted that she “just couldn’t make it as well as Ellen.” Along with Ellen’s Buns, Ellen’s Carrot Cake and Ellen’s Light Fruit Cake are recipes from Ada and Dot and Hilda. All were members of the “bridge club.”
 
Recipe for Ellen's Buns handwritten on the inside cover of Mom's Cook Book
My Mom loved to socialize. The bridge club met every two weeks, at a different member’s home each time; I loved it when they met at our house. Special treats were prepared: finger sandwiches, squares and cookies. Out came the good china and the pretty pickle trays. I was allowed to stay up until all the ladies had arrived. The club was more than a get-together to play cards; it was an evening of special companionship between good friends, filled with laughter and support for each other. I can still remember these ladies and how they each touched my life in some small ways. It was also how I learned from my mother about the value of friendship.

Recipes are not the only things tucked between the pages of this special book; it also has other items that are reminders of my Mom and her life. There is the to-do list of everything she needed to get ready for my trousseau tea and my wedding: what she had to pick up, who to call and what the “schedule” was to get all of these things done. There is a list of friends she could count on to help her get through her tasks – Kay and Elsie and Mrs. Olafson – the mothers of my bridesmaids. Mrs. Pollard was bringing the coffee (4 pounds), the cream (4 pints) and the sugar (5 pounds) and Mom was picking up the flour (92 cents), the nutmeg (23 cents) and the cloves (49 cents). Who knows why she had the prices on the list?

A picture of my Grandma Miller (Mom’s Mom) with a big smile on her face is in the book. According to the note on the back of the picture, it was given to Mom by John Oberg who married Minnie McDaniel who was the daughter of Ike McDaniel. Ike was one of Grandma’s brothers. The picture is dated July 1955 and was likely taken when John and Minnie visited Calgary. (Just a bit of family history information that I found in the cook book!)

There is also a grainy picture of Mom and Dad standing on our front porch ready for winter in their overcoats. Mom’s was green with a Persian lamb collar – I remember it well. It was her “good” coat for many years and most likely purchased at Bay Day – a sale she went to twice a year to take advantage of the bargains. She once bought me a quilted housecoat with matching slippers at one of the sales. It was one of the few ready-made articles of clothing I had as a child and I was thrilled.
 
Left - Grandma Miller in front of her Calgary home (1955); Right - Mom and Dad in front of their home (about 1957)
Mom was a seamstress; she also knitted, crocheted, tatted and smocked. From her I learned to sew, something which I still love to do today. Often we tag-teamed sewing a dress for a special event – one of us would run the sewing machine, the other would press open the seams and together we could put something together in an afternoon. More important than the garment was the time we spent together.

Aside from the lists, the recipes and the pictures used to mark special recipes in the cookbook (not to mention the recipes cut from newspapers and magazines), there are also a few mystery items. One is an invitation to receive the Research Summary from Faulkner Dawkins and Sullivan, Members of the New York Stock Exchange, Inc. Mom and the stock exchange? That’s hard to imagine. Also a brochure on how to buy a fridge – which seems a little strange since my Dad was an appliance repairman and would have been the more likely expert on the subject.

My copy of the Woman’s Home Companion Cook Book is a treasure itself, not only for its recipes, cooking and hosting tips but because it has survived for 75 years. There is still apparently a demand for used copies in good condition which can be had for from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. Some new copies of the original edition are advertised on Amazon.com for up to US$1,445! Like many of its contemporaries this book was an essential addition to any kitchen in its day. Several editions were published during the 40s and 50s. Mom’s copy is special to me because it contains so many memories of her. There are the recipes for family meals that I recall – the ones where a pound of hamburger could be stretched to feed a family of six, as well as the ones for “special occasions.”

There were many lean years in the 50s and 60s when dollars had to be stretched as far as they could go. Mom was a master economist when it came to putting good food on the table for a minimal amount of cost. She was never afraid to do what needed to be done. Unlike many of my friends’ stay-at-home mothers, Mom went to work when she needed to. There were years when she had a part-time or full-time job, four kids to look after and one or two boarders. She made bagged lunches for everyone; she even made the bread until she discovered she could buy 10 loaves of day-old bread at McGavins for $1. On laundry day, the kitchen was always full of freshly-ironed clothes – no such thing as perma-press in the 50s. Still she made time to bake, sew and take care of her family. She never complained and was always cheerful.

In the few years I spent with her as an adult, I came to appreciate that there had been many tough times she had to go through. We had some heart-to-heart talks about how she coped. She was truly a woman of her times that believed you didn’t burden others with your problems. She “cried her tears into the wash bucket while she scrubbed the floor” – an expression that I think she might actually have meant literally.

As a child, I was blissfully unaware of how hard she worked and how often times must have been difficult for her. She made being a Mom look effortless. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t there for me as a parent, a mentor and a friend. I asked her once how she got through some of the bad times and she told me that she held the belief that “everything would always turn out all right” and most often it did. I believe that was her version of “everything happens for a reason.”

My Mom taught me a lot of things. From her I learned to cook, to sew, to economize and to share. She also taught me to be a strong woman, to cope with adversity, to “accept the good with the bad” and to be accountable for what takes place in my own life. “You reap what you sow!” Most importantly, she taught me how to be a Mom which in my mind is my, and her greatest accomplishment.

"Mom" - Norma Mabel (Miller) Shepheard (1917-1974)



Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Missing Parents and Missing Records

As an Online Parish Clerk (OPC) I get a number of requests each year for information about people who lived in one of the parishes I look after. Because I have a large database of births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, burials, censuses that span centuries, I can generally put together a reasonable answer about the families in question. It helps to know what documents are available and what are missing; it is also valuable to be able to look at the relationships of family members over several generations.
One recent query involved the birth/baptism of a girl in 1871, in Cornwood parish, Devon. The researcher wanted to know who the mother was for a Clara Jane Greep who he thought was illegitimate and baptized in Cornwood.
1871 baptism record for Clara Jane Greep in Cornwood parish, Devon (Note: all images used courtesy of the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office)
Little Clara Jane was indeed baptized in Cornwood, on 6 October 1871. She was a base child of Eliza Jane Greep. Nothing else is on the entry that would tell anything about Eliza Jane: how old she was, where she lived or originated, who her parents were or what she did for a living. I looked further into the records and found an Eliza Jane Greep baptized in 1846, in Cornwood, to parents John and Charlotte (Crispin) Greep. Eliza's age in 1871 made it likely she was the mother of Clara Jane. (Just as an aside, Charlotte was my 3rd great-grandaunt making Eliza Jane a 1st cousin, 4X removed and Clara Jane a 2nd cousin, 3X removed. It’s a small world!)
1846 baptism record for Eliza Jane Greep in Cornwood parish, Devon
Now the story gets interesting. Eliza Jane’s family can be found on censuses in 1851 and 1861, living in Cornwood parish. But there was nothing from 1871. What I found out as the OPC, in reviewing and transcribing the census records for the parish was that there were two pages of that census that had not been preserved. And wouldn’t you know, the Greep family was likely recorded on one of those pages.
Skipping along in time, we find John and Charlotte Greep on the 1881 census, living in the same little village of Lutton where they had been since they had married and where their families had also lived. With these two 70-year olds was a nine-year old girl name Clara J. – but no Eliza! Clara was shown as the granddaughter of John and Charlotte.
So what had happened? Had Eliza gone off to work or get married, leaving her child behind with her parents? That was possible and not uncommon for the time.
Eliza was not found on any census past 1861, at least with the name of Greep. There were a few marriage entries for an Eliza Greep and Eliza Jane Greep on FindMyPast – none in or near Cornwood – but they did not seem to fit the right time frame. I looked further in the Cornwood records and found a burial for Eliza Jane Greep, age 26, on 28 August 1872. So, in fact she had died, which explained why I could not find her on the censuses.
1872 burial record for Eliza Jane Greep in Cornwood parish, Devon
Clara Greep was recorded on the 1891 census, working as a domestic servant in Ugborough, a nearby parish. By that time, Charlotte had died and John was still in Lutton, by then a pauper. He died there a few years later.
In 1893, 21-year old Clara Jane Greep married 25-year old Eli Lethbridge in Ivybridge parish, which is next door to Cornwood. Her father is shown as John Greep, labourer. A George Greep was a witness to the ceremony, undoubtedly her uncle.
1893 marriage record for Clara Jane Greep and Eli Lethbridge in Ivybridge parish, Devon
While some information could be found in databases such as FindMyPast, the whole family story would not have become readily clear except for someone like an OPC, who had BMD data covering several generations and in a form that could be reviewed easily and quickly.
Without having the detailed background information of the Cornwood parish records, over several decades, one might miss the connections and not know the proper relationships between all of the Greep family members. In just looking at the marriage record for Clara, we would not have learned that John Greep was by then 83 years old. From that document, but without her baptism and the census records, we might have assumed she really was John’s daughter. We might not have realized that the witness to the marriage, George Greep, was probably her uncle. We might have missed the fact that Clara was orphaned and raised by her grandparents.
Clara and her husband went on to have seven daughters, all born in Ugborough parish. The name Greep lived on as the second name of one of them, although, interestingly, none had the forenames of either her mother or grandmother. She died in 1935.

In this case my knowledge of and immediate access to the records available concerning families in Cornwood over decades helped to find details about Clara Jane.

Have a problem like this? Consult an OPC. If there is not one in the area you are searching, consider becoming one.


Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Natural Disasters and Family Misfortunes 2: Tornadoes

This is tornado season in the United States and reports have been frequent informing us of carnage and death. The most recent, as of this date, was a storm that struck several mid-western and southern states resulting in the deaths of 16 people. One series of storms in Texas cut a swath over 30 miles long and 15 miles wide – fortunately (though not for those whose properties were damaged) mostly in rural areas where fewer people might be affected.


Tornadoes are common on the North American plains, and world-wide for that matter. Reports from long ago are not abundant but we do know that such events were recognized as far back as the middles ages. One of the earliest reports from Britain’s is of a F4-strength tornado that struck London, England in 1091. Many buildings and bridges sustained significant damage.

An apparent tornado was reported to have occurred in what is now the Mexico City area in 1521, two day before the Aztec capital was taken by Hernán Cortés.

The deadliest tornado in recorded history struck Bangladesh on 26 April 1989, killing approximately 1,300 people. The most extensive outbreak occurred in 2011 when 362 tornadoes were counted in the southern, mid-western and northeastern United States (the 2011 Super Outbreak). Over 300 people died. The deadliest storm in America happened in 1925 when almost 750 people lost their lives.

There is a great deal of information about tornadoes from recent centuries, as they have played a huge role in the settlement of the central part of the North American continent. The United States leads the world in the number of these storms. More storms have been counted in recent years although that may have more to do with the great numbers of people and communities inhabiting the areas in which they hit and in the more developed technical methods of observing the storms. There is no trend in the numbers for at least the last 55 years in which there have been detailed statistics kept. If anything, the strongest tornadoes have decreased in frequency.

Tornadoes and other major storms have always been part of weather patterns and human history. I mentioned the hurricane that flattened Galveston, Texas in 1900 in a previous blog post - Natural Disasters and Family Misfortunes: Galveston 1900. This was just one of many large and deadly storms that have affected lives around the world over the centuries. I wrote about the consequences of one severe storm that devastated southern England in 1703, in an April 2014 blog post on The Pharos BlogNatural Disasters and Their Effect on the Lives of Our Ancestors.

Sometimes it does not take a major weather event to disrupt families and cause them to make changes. One of my uncles came to Alberta from Oregon to try his hand at farming in 1931. He settled with his new wife on land he leased in the Crossfield area, just north of Calgary, and set out to become fully Canadian. His oldest child, my cousin, was born in the Irricana area in 1932. Unfortunately, in the summer of his first year a hail storm, not uncommon in that region, destroyed his entire crop. My uncle decided there and then that farming in Alberta was not for him and he moved his family back to the United States. This was just one minor incidence in the history of our family but it had profound effects on the people involved as well as impacting future generations of people in some family branches. My cousin grew up and made his life in a country he was not born into.

All of this is to say that family historians searching for information about their ancestors might be advised to pay attention to natural phenomena, perhaps in particular how events such as major storms impacted the lives and livelihoods of people and communities. How many family lines were affected or even ended when a tornado touched down?


Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Music is in Our Blood

Music has been a big part of our family activities through the generations.

My grandfather sang in the church choir before he came to Canada in 1907 and was an entertainer at many social events in the communities of Keoma and Irricana, Alberta. In 1925, he was the star vocalist and comedian in the comedy, Nothing But the Truth, an event held to raise funds to purchase a piano for the new community hall. He also sang at many social events at the local school. Neighbours remembered hearing him singing at full voice as he worked outside at his farm.

As a child I took music lessons for many years, learning to play the baritone (horn). From that I could play anything with valves. For many years I was one of the smallest kids with one of the biggest horn. I also tried (not very hard I’ll admit) to learn the violin in a short and painful series of lessons for me and everyone around me.
 
1956 – students of Joseph Hopkins in an early brass ensemble. Wayne is second from the right. Mr. Hopkins is standing in front of the picture hanging on the wall.
My music teacher, Mr. Joseph Hopkins (1904-1981) was a marvelous musician and teacher who could play and teach others to play almost every instrument. He assembled both a brass band and an orchestra featuring all of his students that played at local concerts and competitions. There are many photos and personal certificates related to his career in the Glenbow Archives in Calgary, with this short description of the man: Joseph W. Hopkins, 1904-1981, was born in Prague, Bohemia and graduated from the Prague Conservatory of Music. He immigrated to Calgary, Alberta in 1927 and became the founder and principal of the Hopkins School of Music. He organized classes in the towns of Innisfail, Olds, Bowden, Red Deer, Sylvan Lake, Lacombe and Calgary. Students from his schools formed a student symphony, brass band and Hawaiian orchestras. His students won many awards at the Kiwanis Music Festivals in Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge. He was a member of the Alberta Registered Music Teachers Association.

I was very lucky that my parents found Mr. Hopkins. He was an excellent teacher and a dedicated professional in giving all his students the opportunity to play with others in larger bands and orchestras.
 
1959 Hopkins School of Music brass band composed all of students of Joseph Hopkins
In high school I played in the band (baritone) and a small four-piece combo (valve trombone). While attending university I played in a pick-up Dixieland band organized by one of my geology professors.
 
1969 – some members of the Prospectors, a pick-up Dixieland jazz group. In all there were over a dozen musicians from all walks of life who dropped in to jam on a regular basis.
I bought my first grandson an electronic piano when he was a small boy. This six-foot high school student now plays an upright bass in the school band, orchestra and jazz ensemble as well as being a pretty good piano player. His brother is taking up the piano and guitar. My granddaughter is an accomplished ballerina at the tender age of 13. We hope she will be able to pursue dance in her adult life. Her little brother is learning the saxophone.
 
2017 – Shepheard grandchildren musicians and performers
Music is in our Shepheard blood although it was not a main pursuit of every generation. I like to think my ancestors also had musical talents – where else would I have gotten mine – but there is no way to know if that was true to any great extent.

In past centuries people certainly were entertained by and participated in musical activities. We can’t hear them sing or dance, so we have to guess at what entertainment they liked based on stories and songs that have been preserved in print. With luck we can hear present-day performers tackle the old versions to get an idea of how they sounded and were received by audiences hundreds of years ago. The church was generally the central gathering place in many communities, especially in the rural areas. Choirs would lead the congregation on Sundays but these same people might also be highlight singers as other social events and encourage many residents to join them.

I searched for information on music from the 17th to 19th centuries to try to find out what people listened to, primarily in Britain as most of my ancestors come from that region. I am sure that readers could find many examples from other countries.

A few websites worth visiting include:

Widipedia (of course):
This is a brief outline of the development of Western art music written during the Classical period between 1730 and 1820.
Commercial music enjoyed its origins in the music halls of the 16th and 17th centuries.

This is an article by Gavin Dixon published in Limelight Magazine 2013 in which he comments on music evolution from the Middle Ages onward. Gavin discusses music of all types from classical to jazz.

This blog piece was published in The Guardian by Suzy Klein in 201. Suzy points out that popular music, for the masses, as it originally conceived, began as the middle class grew in Britain through the 1700s. It is a very good introduction to the rise of performance art in many venues from pubs to music halls.

The originator, Lesley Nelson-Burns, has assembled songs from many regions and sources. Both lyrics and musical accompaniment can be experienced. Folk music was probably the hit parade of the day with songs sung and played in many venues from local pubs to community social gatherings.

I am sure there are lots more sites to investigate. And maybe one day I will find out more about whether my ancestors were musical.


Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Natural Disasters and Family Misfortunes: Galveston 1900

There are many examples of natural disasters around the world and throughout history that have taken lives – sometimes whole families. Epidemics, in the days before vaccines and effective medical treatments could run rampant through communities. Floods have destroyed property and occasionally resulted in deaths of those caught up in rapidly rising waters and the swirling currents of raging rivers. Major storms, certainly the cause of some large-scale floods, have sometimes killed people.

I have done a number of studies of natural phenomena and their effects on communities and people in the past, and have a library of examples of rapidly-developing events and long-term environmental changes that had serious repercussions on people’s lives and livelihoods.

Events that stand out include hurricanes that arrive with tremendous destructive force, often catching people unprepared. One such storm that is remembered in reports at the time and many publications afterward was the tempest that struck Galveston, Texas, USA on 8 September 1900.

It was a Category 4 storm, with winds up to 145 miles per hour (233 km/h). Over 6,000 people were killed in collapsed buildings and a 15-foot storm surge that swept over the island. The severity of the elements was not predicted or expected and completely overwhelmed the entire island of Galveston and the city perched on its shore. It was the deadliest hurricane in US history.
 
Panarama of destruction from the 1900 Galveston hurricane (downloaded from https://www.1900storm.com/
As in all similar events, there are thousands of stories that go along with the casualties. Family historians who had relatives in these areas will have particular interests in detailing how the physical conditions affect members of their families and the communities in which they lived.
 
The orphanage of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word is shown in this circa 1896 photo where it sat in the sand dunes along the gulf coast in Galveston, Texas. Both buildings were destroyed and 90 children and 10 nuns were killed when a hurricane slammed into the island 8 September 1900 (downloaded from http://www.chron.com/neighborhood/bayarea/slideshow/The-1900-Storm-in-Galveston-69849/photo-5159418.php) 
One very sad tale arising from the event had to do with the complete destruction of the Sisters of Charity St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum. Among those lost were 10 sisters and 90 children.  Only three children survived the onslaught of wind and water: William Murney, Frank Madera and Albert Campbell. All three clung to the branches of a tree for over a day until they were able to climb down on to dry land and find their way to town. Only William Murney and Albert Campbell appear on the US 1900 census of 27 June for Galveston, so Frank must have come to the location only a short time before disaster struck.
 
Sisters and children at the St. Mary’s Orphan Asylum about 1900 (downloaded from https://www.1900storm.com/orphanage.html) 
William Murney lost a younger brother at the orphanage who he had tried in vain to save. Their parents had died within a few days of one another in July 1894. Two sisters, not in residence at the orphanage also survived. One sister, Josephine, had been adopted by a Galveston family prior to 1900. Information about William and his family can be found on Find A Grave.

Frank Madera has been born in Austria and came to America in 1898 with his mother and sister. Following the death of his mother two months after their arrival, the children were placed in the orphanage. The sister was living in Houston when the hurricane attacked. His story can be found on Find A Grave.

Albert Campbell and his sister, Magdalena, lived with an older sister, after their parents died. They were sent to the orphanage on a temporary basis when the sister and her husband moved to Kansas. The storm caught them before they could rejoin their family members. More information about Albert and his family can also be found on Find A Grave.

The three boys apparently sporadically kept in touch over the years but never met as a group again. All three eventually married and had children. Frank died in 1953; Albert died in 1955; and William died in 1971. Some descendants came to Galveston in 1994 when a memorial for the hurricane’s orphanage victims was dedicated. A very interesting summary of their lives during and after the event can be found on the pages of the Galveston Daily News for 16 October 1994.

There also will be dozens of stories about the families of those staff and children at the orphanage who did not survive. Families of individuals lost, at the orphanage and across Galveston Island during the hurricane must have felt enormous grief. Perhaps those accounts might be unearthed and summarized by genealogists one day. A full list of most of those killed can be found at the Galveston and Texas History Center Rosenberg Library.

Information about the storm and its aftermath can be read on Wikipedia 1900 Galveston hurricane. Many publications are also listed on the website. One need only search for Galveston Hurricane 1900 to find many other references.

Naturally-occurring events such as this are all part of the fabric of family history.

Another major natural disaster – the 111th anniversary of which is today (April 18th) – was the 1906 San Francisco earthquake which possibly killed 3,000 people and left another 300,000 homeless. I’ll look at how that one affected families in a future blog post.


Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Medical Miracles

Family historians do not think too much about medical advances of the past. Certainly they notice how their ancestors may have died or what illnesses took them down. There are many stories of how communities were affected by epidemics that ravaged them and how local doctors and others reacted to treat the afflicted.

We know that great advances in medicine have been made in the last 200 years, for example with the introduction of vaccines which over time, at least in the western world, helped to eradicate many diseases which caused so much death in so many areas. Modern techniques in surgery have also allowed physicians to prevent or reduce the risks of death from many ailments. Late in the 20th century, non-invasive procedures meant that patients could go home the same day they underwent operations. We have now moved into a time when mechanical devices can reduce suffering and prolong life.

Less than 100 years ago some treatments and techniques would have been thought of as belonging to science fiction. Two or more centuries ago things such as artificial lungs, kidney dialysis machines or organ transplants were completely unthought-of.

The idea of medical miracles has become commonplace.

One device we learned about in my own family was the Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD) or Heartmate II®. In early 2011, my oldest sister was suffering with a failing heart, and was near death. Other ailments, her deteriorating health and her age, made her a very high risk patient for a heart transplant. But there was an option available at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where she was admitted. They were a world leader in cardiac care and had been developing the skills and experience associated with the Heartmate II.

The LVAD is a pump that connects directly to the heart and is powered by batteries carried outside the body. An online description describes it as “a mechanical device that helps people when their heart is too weak to pump blood. An LVAD doesn’t replace the heart. It assists the heart in pumping oxygen-rich blood throughout the body so that the organs and muscles can function properly. The LVAD system has parts that work inside and outside the body. Inside, a heart pump is attached to the left side of the heart. Outside, a controller, batteries, and driveline help to power and control the heart pump.
 
Diagram of the Heartmate II system
Within days of the surgery, and after the shock and pain of the process had subsided, Lynn was alert and back to her smiling, happy self. There was, of course, the normal recovery period that patients who have had open-heart surgery face, but within a few months she was home and resuming most of her daily activities. My brother-in-law, Roy, was a real trooper in making sure her batteries were charged and the wound constantly cleaned, being available to drive her wherever she needed to be and doing whatever other tasks needed to be done around the house to alleviate any stress.

Lynn was 70 when the Heartmate II was implanted, at the time apparently the oldest female patient to have the procedure. In the words of her husband, “She was chosen for her youthful attitude and will for quality of life which she strived for.” Many others to receive the new pump eventually went on to have heart transplants. Because of her general physical condition, Lynn was not to be afforded that option.

The fact this procedure was available was particularly notable in our family as our little brother had died in 1950, at the age of two, of a congenital heart defect. I wrote about him on a post, My Brother Jimmy… Within a few years of his death, open heart surgery was available, something that might have saved his life.

Lynn became a poster-girl for the system, often presenting her experiences about the life-saving process to others. It had some unique properties, among them, a constant flow of blood such that patients did not exhibit a normal periodic pulse but rather a sound like flowing water. Her words were especially valued by concerned people with heart problems and who would be candidates for the new pump – even children.
 
Lynn with Muskaan Grewal – At the time the photo was taken in 2013 they were the oldest and youngest females in the program. At the age of six years, Muskaan was the youngest person in the world to receive a heart pump.
The new heart pump did not prevent Lynn from travelling but when she did local hospitals had to be alerted to her visit, so that if anything went wrong they would know how to treat her. You can imagine the questioning looks she got going through airport security with her implanted mechanical device and the battery pack strapped to her waist. She could even dial up the pump rate in case she wanted to do a little jogging (Not!).

Eventually she went back to performing with her seniors group in their musical stage productions. Most importantly she got her happy disposition rekindled.

Following are the results of a study done in 2015, Short and long term outcomes of 200 patients supported by continuous-flow left ventricular assist devicesThe mean age of our LVAD recipients was 59.3 years (range 17-81), 76% (152/200) were males, and 49% were implanted for the indication of bridge to transplant. The survival rate for our LVAD patients at 30 days, 6 months, 12 months, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years was 94%, 86%, 78%, 71%, 62% and 45% respectively. The mean duration of LVAD support was 581 days (range 2-2595 days). Short and long term survival for patients on LVAD support are excellent, although outcomes still remain inferior compared to heart transplantation.

Lynn lived another five years with her Heartmate II, and enjoyed every minute of it. And the family were all blessed for having the extra time with her. In the end, it was not her heart or the pump that failed. The LVAD never faltered; it continued to function as it had been intended. Other complications ended her life. With other parts of her body failing, the pump had to be shut down and unplugged. We appreciate what a life-saving and life-extending device the Heartmate II was.

It is interesting to speculate what changes in our family trees might have occurred if many of the procedures and treatments had been available centuries ago – or even just decades ago – things we seem to take for granted today. There is no doubt that future families will have different outcomes as a result of the medical miracles we are now witnessing.


Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

I finally found Alfred…

Readers may remember a few posts here in which I discussed the problems I have had in finding one of my great-granduncles, Alfred Shepheard.

The last breakthrough was in November of 2016. I had come across a newspaper report of an Alfred Shepheard being jailed for drunk and disorderly conduct in Plymouth, Devon. He spent his 31st birthday in the lockup. But there was no other information at least that was obvious.

I had had my eye on a few records before finally deciding to bite the bullet and purchase a death certificate. There was a man named Alfred Shepheard who had been in and out of the Islington, London, Workhouse on St. John’s Road, from late 1914 until early 1915. His name was spelled like mine; his birth year was indicated as 1860; and his occupation was horsekeeper. Those facts all fit with him being my relative, but without additional information I could not say for sure he was my great-granduncle.


He was not to be found on any census after 1881 and it was not until I found the court record that I knew he was still alive in 1891.

I knew that some of his siblings had moved to London: older brother William John Shepheard had moved there by 1881 and married there the same year and worked there until after 1891; sister Fanny Ann (Shepheard) Ellison married her husband in London in 1896 and lived there with her family for many decades; younger brother John had moved to London by 1899 when he married and lived there until his death in 1943. So there was a good chance that Alfred might have joined them in the city.

There were a couple of death records for a man of the same name from the late 1890s and later but inconsistencies in their full names, spelling and other particulars did not seem to fit. There was one, however, in 1915 that fit both the area in London and the information from the workhouse. I decided to take a chance and order it.

My luck – the informant turned out to be Fanny Ellison, who was a sister of Alfred, so I knew I finally had the right man. His death was caused by chronic interstitial nephritis – an inflammation in the kidneys – and cardiac failure.


On his death record, Alfred’s normal residence is shown as Redhill Farm, Kingsbury, Middlesex, northwest of the city. He is not listed as a resident of the farm on the 1911 census, though, so likely was not employed there very long. How and why he ended up at the workhouse in Islington, even just being eight miles away in unknown. Possibly that was the closest infirmary he could be admitted to.

Now that I have an end date and place for Alfred’s life, I will continue to see if I can fill in the years from 1891 when he was in Plymouth, Devon.

It was satisfying to finally fill in some blanks with respect to Alfred, but sad to know he died so young. It does appear, at least, that members of his family were there to support him at the end.


Wayne Shepheard is a retired geologist and active genealogist. He volunteers with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy in several family history society journals. Wayne has also served as an editor of two such publications. He provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.