Sunday, January 15, 2023

Understanding Our Ancestors: Tuberculosis & Influenza

I'm writing an article about my great grandparents, William Green Cook & Jane Bell King Cook and their descendants.  In order to get a better understanding of the social aspect of what happened with my family in the early 1900s,  I've added several books to my personal library.  My Cook family was hit pretty hard by tuberculosis.  It all but wiped out my Great Aunt Rebecca's branch of  the family.  I knew very little about what had happened prior to my researching the family and even then very little about the TB hospitals.

The list of books I'm studying are as follows:

  • The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History--John M. Barry(2005)
  • Fevered Lives: Tuberculosis in American Culture since 1870--Katherine Ott(1999)
  • Bargaining for Life: A Social History of Tuberculosis, 1876-1938 (Studies in Health, Illness, and Caregiving)--Barbara Bates(1992)
  • Living In The Shadow Of Death: Tuberculosis And The Social Experience Of Illness In America--Sheila M. Rothman(1994)
  • The White Plague: Tuberculosis, Man and Society--Jean Dubos(1987)
  • Discovering Tuberculosis: A Global History, 1900 to the Present--Christian W. McMillen(2015)

I also purchased one book about Yellow Fever because I wanted to compare that with the other illnesses.  I don't know of anyone in my family that died from Yellow Fever.  If you have any family from areas where there was swamp land you may find some of your family dealt with it. 

The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, The Epidemic That Shaped Our History--Molly Caldwell Crosby(2007)

There are many other issues that our ancestors dealt with regarding their health and economic situations.  It is hard for us to understand why they made certain decisions but reading about what was happening in the world during their lifetime helps to put that into perspective. In 1927, my dad's brother died of scarlet fever.  Dad had rheumatic fever when he was of elementary school age but was fortunate enough to survive even though it threw him behind in school because of having to be absent.

Look at your family.  What obstacles did they face? Health? Disabilities? Financial? Environmental? Look for books on that time period and subject to get a better understanding. It really does help.

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