It’s one thing to know the bare facts of a story but a totally different thing when you find a more personal or intimate view of a person. This was a heartbreaking find tucked among my Great Aunt June’s belongings.

The following is an entry from my 2nd Great Aunt Ethel Augusta Packer’s diary. She was born 12 November 1887 in Oxford, Ontario to Cornelius and Flora (Massy) Packer. The family came to Michigan and settled in a house on 163 Shirley St, in Grand Rapids around 1891. At the time of the entry she was twelve years old and stricken with tuberculosis. She died the following September just short of her thirteenth birthday. My grandmother was named after her.

January 18, 1900 Entry from Ethel Packer's Diary.

It reads:

Freddie Ellingham is sick and so am I and he sent me two oranges. I am setting up and I have been in bed six  weeks. Papa is sitting by the bed reading my story book and mama making me a tidy. I have taken my medicine good all day to day. I had me bed drown up by the window to see the children snow ball.

For more information on the TB epidemic in the late 19th and early 20th Century check out this post.

Happy hunting,

Jess

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Robert James Shea

This is just your friendly reminder to don’t forget to look at  the times that shaped your ancestors. I’ve been delving deeper into the background of my Great-Grandfather Robert Shea entering the Michigan State Hospital in Howell–including looking into the records of the Michigan Tuberculosis Association held by the Michigan State University Archives. The association coordinated the state’s efforts to get rejected (due to TB) World War I soldiers into treatment. And while trying to get a better understanding of their campaign, I ran into notes specifically about my Great-Grandfather!

The background information into the response to the TB epidemic in Michigan is extremely helpful to understanding how my family was shaped by the disease and more than worth the search, finding references to my Grandfather was just a fabulous bonus.

In related news my presentation for the 2018 Abram’s Foundation Family History Seminar next month is “TB in the Family Tree.”  David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society is the featured speaker for the event. Join us!

Happy hunting,

Jess

PackerAlbum27One of my winter projects was to write about my family’s experiences during the height of the Tuberculosis epidemic in the late 19th and early 20th century.  That means I have a nice list of resources I’d suggest for people researching in this era. My primary focus has obviously been Michigan but if you’re researching a TB patient or anyone involved in the epidemic—activists, medical staff, etc.—consider that there could have been a comparable organization in the area you’re researching.

Track down the Tubercular hospitals, such as the Michigan State Sanatorium (pictured above), for which you can find:

  • Patient records held by the Archives of Michigan and available with death certificate of patient.
  • Historical collections regarding the hospital held by Howell Carnegie Library
  • Reports of the Board of Trustees held by the Library of Michigan, some available through Google Books
  • Michigan Official Directory and Legislative Manual. Includes a short history of the Sanatorium with a listing of the Board of trustees.
  • Tuberculosis Hospital and Sanatorium Construction by Thomas Spees Carrington, National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, New York, 1911.

Find out how the locale you’re researching responded to the epidemic. For Michigan that includes State reports and Legislation:

  • Report of the Tuberculosis Survey of the State Board of Health compiled under the supervision of John L. Burkart, by the authority of the State Board of Health, Lansing, Michigan, 1917.
  • Public Health (quarterly periodical) by the Michigan State Board of Health, Lansing, Michigan. 1907-1951.
  • Michigan Tuberculosis Association Records, held by Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections.
  • Ralph H. Childs/Grand Rapids Anti-Tuberculosis Society Collection held by Grand Rapids Public Library.

Broader discussion of the treatment of Tuberculosis:

  • The Open Air Treatment of Pulmonary Tuberculosis by F. W. Burton-Fanning, Cassell and Company LTD, 1909.
  • Clinical Tuberculosis by Francis Marion Pottenger, Second Edition, 2 Vol., C.V. Mosby Company, St Louis, 1922.

It’s fascinating and often heartbreaking research.

Happy hunting,

Jess