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Deaths of 3 young siblings over 2 days in 1892.

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Deaths of 3 young siblings over 2 days in 1892.

Postby Brummie on Exmoor » Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:08 pm

I have been researching one of my paternal lines, who migrated from the Welsh Marches to the mining and metal-working areas of the Midlands and North East. One particular couple had 17 children between 1875 and 1899, but by the 1911 Census, 10 had died.

I was curious to discover the reasons, so I sent for the Death Certificates, and I expected to find quite a high proportion of epidemic diseases like Measles or Scarlet Fever, especially where I could see that several children had died within days. But I was wrong, and I am puzzled by one of these clusters. Can anyone help to shed light on the causes please?

Albert John ROGERS (4 years), William (18 months) and Ruth (6 years), died on 20, 20 and 21 February 1892 in 'Pink Pool', Bilston, Wolverhampton. 'Pink Pool' was (probably very sub-standard) housing built on the site of an old flooded mine shaft, and the name doesn't fill me with confidence about the possible environmental dangers of the location.

Albert John and Ruth died of 'Convulsions', William of 'Anaemia'. Could the convulsions be a result of some sort of poisoning caused by the old mine workings? Or could they result from a high temperature caused by an infection? I note that there was a 'flu pandemic in the UK in the 1892-1893 period. Or could they result from overdosing of a morphine or other medicine for teething problems? But in that case, where does the anaemia fit in?

Grateful for any ideas....

Regards,

Jane
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Re: Deaths of 3 young siblings over 2 days in 1892.

Postby KayFarndon » Fri Jun 15, 2018 4:44 pm

I had always assumed that my father was the youngest of six children, when it turns out he was number six of eight. The two who died both died from convulsions in teething, one was a year old with the death registered as 'dentition convulsions' the other one ten months old, with exactly the same wording, but he also had pertussis, whooping cough. Both were healthy children from a good family.

So the cause of the convulsions were perhaps not clear enough for the doctor to give a precise detail on your certificates and there could be numerous reasons for the convulsions. Convulsions in children were very common then, though thankfully not the same today.

Anaemia could possibly be due to a diet not iron rich and if you have suspicions about the area being a poor one, then this would be highly probable.
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Re: Deaths of 3 young siblings over 2 days in 1892.

Postby Brummie on Exmoor » Fri Jun 15, 2018 8:09 pm

Thanks Kay.

Yes, as I also mentioned, Convulsions seems to have cropped up quite regularly in association with teething. Some authorities do suggest that busy Mums in those days tried to quieten the teething infants with (presumably) laudanum, certainly opiate based concoctions, and these had some part in causing them.

I also take your point about iron deficiency. However, I just feel that it is too much of a coincidence for 3 (3!) children to die in 2 days, and the 3 deaths be unrelated as to cause. Which is why I wonder how or if Anaemia fits in with Convulsions.

Regards,

Jane
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Re: Deaths of 3 young siblings over 2 days in 1892.

Postby coopernicola » Sat Jun 16, 2018 8:52 am

Looking at this as a retired microbiologist it would seem likely that Infectious Disease would be responsible for these infant deaths, but possibly not all the same disease.
Almost any bacterial infection, and indeed teething, can cause raised temperature and lead to convulsions. Some viral infections too - influenza could have been responsible but it’s likely this would have been mentioned on the death certificates.
As for anaemia this could have been due to parasite infestation such as hookworm or trichuris - very common in poor areas. TB can cause anaemia, but again it’s likely this would have been on the certificate. Bacterial dysentery (shigella or E. Coli) could be responsible although no diarrhoea was mentioned. An outside bet would be a childhood leukaemia.
Have you checked the burial records, there may be additional information written by the local vicar?
Sadly I doubt you may never find out.
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Re: Deaths of 3 young siblings over 2 days in 1892.

Postby Brummie on Exmoor » Sat Jun 16, 2018 10:44 am

Thank you Nicola for this really interesting and informative reply. You mention that things are NOT said on the Certificates, and I have found it a little surprising that some of the causes given are stated so baldly, given that this is 1892, not 1842, and medical science had moved on somewhat by this stage. I do wonder whether this is a reflection of the fact that this is about poor people, and the authorities were simply into box ticking, not asking the questions that needed to be asked. Also, sadly, at present, I have been unable to track down the burials of any of the 10 dead children; I shall continue to look.

One question: could parasite infestation, of the sort that you describe, also cause secondary infections which could lead to raised temperatures, and hence to Convulsions?

This morning, I received the last of the 10 certificates, one of 2 in the other 'cluster'. In this case, Beatrice May (3 years) and Violet Jubilee (aged 15 months) died on 21 and 26 October 1898. Beatrice died of 'Pertussis Pneumonia; Certified', and Violet Jubilee died of 'Bronchitis; Certified'. Pertussis is Whooping Cough.

Regards,

Jane
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Re: Deaths of 3 young siblings over 2 days in 1892.

Postby coopernicola » Sun Jun 17, 2018 3:25 pm

Generally people, and children, with parasitic infestations from poor backgrounds would be much more susceptible to other infections - this is still sadly the case today in some parts of the world. Also remember they would not have had access to any form of healthcare, and until the mid 20th century no antibiotic or antihelminths.
It’s likely that as sick children at this time would have been looked after in their homes by overwhelmed mothers, they would be the ones to describe symptoms once their child had died.
Clearly there was Pertussis around (which does cause convulsions) but children usually present with the indicative ‘whooping’ cough - most disturbing if you’ve not seen it! It’s quite possible a child could have convulsions without the cough, but also another cause could have been responsible (e.g. bacterial meningitis).
With terrible living conditions many infections were problematic, as you have seen from the death certificates. Until the introduction of childhood vaccination and better conditions this, sadly, was the lot of many of our ancestors children.
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Re: Deaths of 3 young siblings over 2 days in 1892.

Postby Brummie on Exmoor » Sun Jun 17, 2018 3:59 pm

Thank you so much for this really informative response. Your insight into what was actually going on, on the ground, is very revealing. It is clear that the poverty, the poor and insanitary living conditions, inadequate diet, and probably the unpleasant and polluted physical environment, produced this sad saga.

Regards,

Jane
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