Monday, January 27, 2014

An Amish Tragedy

One of the saddest stories I’ve come across in my Amish genealogy research is the story of Jacob Lambright (1840-1881).  Here’s what I know from the census records and the book “An Amish Patchwork” by Thomas Meyers and Steven Nolt:

Jacob was one of eight children of Elizabeth Hupperich and Johann Peter Lembrich, a/k/a Lambrick, a/k/a Lambright.  (Those German surnames were often spelled a dozen different ways in the early days.)  After Elizabeth’s death in 1845, Johann left Germany with the children and settled in Tuscarawas County, Ohio.  Jacob and a brother ended up in Lagrange County, Indiana, where Jacob became a member of the Amish church and, in 1862, married Sarah J. Yoder.  On the marriage license his surname was spelled “Lambrick.”  By the 1870 census Jacob and Sarah owned a farm in Newbury Township where they lived with their three children, and by the 1880 census they were living on a farm in Eden Township with seven children at home.

 Here’s what I know from other online researchers (thanks to Rena Markley via Ron Lambright):

In the autumn of 1880, Jacob was helping to harvest grain at a nearby farm, bundling it into sheaves.  After a thunderstorm came and went, he went back out to set up some sheaves and was bit on the foot by a rattlesnake.  He was quite ill for a long time.  Eventually his wife brought him to nearby Wolcottville to spend the winter with his brother.  He came home in the spring, but continued to be in a deep depression.  One evening when it was time to come in for supper, Jacob told the hired men to go on ahead.  When he didn’t come in, and they went to find him, he was found in the woods, where he had hung himself, his dog waiting nearby.

I hesitated to write about Jacob based only on the stories told by others.  What if the suicide story wasn’t true?  But recently I was contacted by Dalonda Young, who was digitizing old records for Lagrange County.  She wondered if I’d be interested in the coroner’s report for Jacob Lambright.  Of course I was!  Here was the documentation I needed, and it meshed with the stories I’d heard:

 “Are you one of the parties who found the deceased?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Where did you find him?”

“…We saw him hanging by the neck in a basswood tree about 2 o’clock this 25 day of April 1881… He was dead when we found him.”

“Had his mind been affected immediately before his death?”

“Sickness disturbed his mind, and deranged him and made him do things that gave symptoms of insanity...  He would rather die than live…  He had been affected similarly during the winter of 1879-1880.”

Other witnesses, including his wife, testified to the same, with Sarah saying, “His mind was much affected at times, and then at times he seemed all right and rational.  When alone he would be worse…  He said he wished he was dead and thought he would kill himself in some way.”

What a tragedy!

I visited Jacob’s grave recently, in an Amish cemetery in Shipshewana, Indiana, where he is buried with his wife Sarah, who never remarried.  His father Johann is buried nearby.  Seeing his final resting place made the story seem more real, and even sadder.  But Jacob’s name is in the history books today as the father and progenitor of all the Amish Lambrights—now a very common Amish name in Northern Indiana.  Today, in the Lagrange County area, he has hundreds of descendants, both Amish and “English.”  His life was short, but his legacy is enduring. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Typhoid Fever

Recently I wrote about Warren Alwood, my husband’s great grandfather.  Warren’s father Charles Alwood/Allwood died during the Civil War of typhoid fever, and later, Warren’s adopted son Frankie died of it in 1900.  Just what was this scourge that broke up so many families and caused so much grief in those times? says that typhoid fever is most often caused by the Salmonella typhi or paratyphi bacteria.  The bacteria are deposited in water or food by a human carrier and then spread to others.  It is most commonly transmitted through polluted water supplies, poor public sanitation, or contaminated food, which explains why it was so prevalent on crowded immigrant ships, in overcrowded city slums, and in hastily-formed army camps.

Despite the development of a vaccine in 1901 which was used on the entire U.S. Army before WWI, nevertheless in the 1920s there were over 35,000 deaths in the United States from typhoid, as compared to about 400 cases annually today.  (Worldwide there are still 13 million cases annually, with over half a million deaths.)  The use of antibiotics have greatly reduced the mortality rate.

What did typhoid fever look like?  Encyclopaedia Brittanica ( says that after 10 to 14 days the early symptoms appear:  headache, aching, fever, restlessness, and perhaps nosebleeds, cough, and gastric upset.  Fever then develops, reaching 103 to 104 degrees.  By week two, a rose-colored rash appears on the body for four or five days, then disappears.  Then comes hemorrhage of the intestinal walls; after that, mental confusion and delirium sets in.  By week three, the typhoid victim is emaciated, suffers from acute abdominal distress, and the mental disturbance is pronounced.  By week four, for the lucky ones, the symptoms abate and recovery occurs—but if untreated, typhoid fever is fatal in about 25% of cases.

The most famous carrier of typhoid fever, Mary Mallon—“Typhoid Mary”—worked as a cook in New York City in the early 1900s.  When she refused to believe she was a carrier and give up working as a cook, even after repeated warnings, public health authorities had her quarantined for the last 26 years of her life. 

The most famous typhoid death is probably that of Queen Victoria’s husband Albert at age 42—although modern experts lean towards the theory that it was probably something more chronic like Crohn’s disease.  Victoria blamed their eldest son the Prince of Wales’ wild escapades for causing her husband’s death, and she never forgave her son for it—nor did she ever stop wearing black and mourning her beloved Prince Albert.

But most typhoid deaths were of the more ordinary kind, like my husband’s great-great-grandfather Charles Alwood, who died in a Union Army camp in North Carolina in July of 1865, and young Frankie Alwood, who died in 1900 in a small town in Ohio at the tender age of 14.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


I don’t think much about tuberculosis (known as “consumption” in the old days)...  But my Great Grandpa Charles Erickson and his wife Lena had far too much familiarity with it, since it killed three of their adult children—Mina, Edward, and Tecla—as well as several of their grandchildren.

Charles and Lena Erickson’s oldest daughter Mina married  George Edward Lehmann around 1900; I’m not sure when this photo of George and Mina was taken.  Mina, it is said in the family, contracted the disease as a young mother, but refused to go to Edward Tuberculosis Sanitarium in nearby Naperville, Illinois (now Edward Hospital), not wanting to leave her children.  Tuberculosis ended her life in 1924 at age 42.  Three of her children caught it, probably from her, and two of them (Howard and Hazel) died from it a few years after their mother did.  My mother once told me that the third child, a son, survived after aggressive treatment of some kind. 

It is said in the family that Charles and Lena’s son Edward also died of tuberculosis, in 1916.  Charles and Lena’s daughter Tecla contracted it as well, dying in 1937, and giving it to her married daughter Vera, who died at a tuberculosis sanatorium in Minnesota in 1945.  A survey of available records seems to bear all of this out.

I wanted to know more about this disease that took such a toll on my grandfather’s siblings. Was it really so contagious, and was it truly still killing people in the 1940s?

I started at the American Lung Association website at  I learned there that tuberculosis, or TB, is spread through the air.  When a person with TB coughs, laughs, sneezes, sings, or even talks, the disease can spread. 
It also said this:  “It is not easy to become infected with tuberculosis.  Usually a person has to be close to someone with TB disease for a long period of time.  TB is usually spread between family members, close friends, and people who work or live together.  TB is spread most easily in closed spaces over a long period of time.”  That explains why those with TB were sent to live in sanatoriums until they recovered!  Indeed, it would have been easy for a mother to give the disease to her children.
I learned on the website that the disease has been with us since ancient times.  The concept of separating TB patients from the general population in sanatoriums began in the late 1800s.  Sometimes rest and improved nutrition brought about a cure.  Although a vaccine was developed in the 1920s, it apparently wasn’t widely used, and there was little else that could be done until the advent of the antibiotic streptomycin in 1944.   

As for the family tradition that one of Mina’s sons was treated aggressively for the disease— said this:  “Before antibiotics were found effective against tuberculosis, surgical treatment of tuberculosis was common and often lifesaving.”

Typhoid, whooping cough, tuberculosis—all are diseases I’ve seen repeatedly in my family tree.  So many died before their time, in days gone by!  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

This Genealogist's New Year's Resolutions for 2014

Another new year, full of hopes and dreams, and a few New Year’s Resolutions of a genealogical nature…

1.     Reading:  I want to read a dozen genealogy books in 2014.  One at the top of my list, when I have a little money to spend, is Professional Genealogy edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills, which is a collection of wonderful articles written by a number of genealogy experts.  Not every section would apply to me, but enough of them would.  I want to read Ancestral Trails by Mark D. Herber, which I’ve had on my bookshelf for a while, and which I hope can help me in my search for my husband’s Yorkshire roots.  Also on my list are couple of Christmas gifts from my wonderful step-kids:  Time Traveller’s Handbook: A Guide to the Past by Althea Douglas, for some historical context for my research, and Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse by Lisa Louise Cooke. 

2.     Message Boards:  I have had some wonderful breakthroughs by posting on genealogy message boards, mainly on  This year I want to use the message boards more often and sooner.  There are some amazing researchers lurking on those boards, ready to take on someone else’s research challenges just for the fun of it.  They think of things I haven’t thought of, and look in places I haven’t looked.

3.     Giving Back:  I have an iphone now, and I want to use it to take photos for in small cemeteries near my home, and in Amish Indiana when we visit.  I’ll try to do six cemeteries this year, walking the entire cemetery each time.

4.     Giving Back Some More:  I also have made it a habit lately, when I’m bored or can’t sleep, to transcribe gravestones online for  The website keeps a count at the top of the page of how many I’ve done…  I’ve transcribed about 750 at last count.  I’ll try to do at least 100 transcriptions a month.  I love and I use it all the time—I’ve contributed to it, and no doubt will again—but I think is the wave of the future.

5.     Photographs:  In my never-ending search for photographs of my family and my husband’s family to add to my collection (and share with others), I’ll reach out to a few more distant and newly-discovered cousins this year—sharing what I have if they’ll do the same.  I have thousands of photos already, but the next exciting discovery is always around the corner!  Share, share, share—that’s the way to keep these photos from disappearing into the mists of time (or into someone’s closet or fried hard drive).

6.     Blogs:  I love to write posts for my genealogy blog, but this year I’m going to read more of other people’s blogs.  The only one to which I actually subscribe is Judy Russell’s blog, “The Legal Genealogist.”  I’m going to add a few more.  There are a lot of well-written ones out there, and it’s good reading when I have a few minutes to spare.

7.     A Field Trip:  Fort Wayne, Indiana isn’t that far away, and we travel to Northeastern Indiana regularly…  Maybe this will be the year I can visit the Allen County Public Library’s nationally famous Genealogy Center for the first time.  I’ve been told that it’s one of the finest genealogy libraries in the entire country.  We intend to retire to Northeastern Indiana in a few years, but I hope I don’t have to wait that long to check out this wonderful place that I’ve heard so much about! 

So that’s the plan, anyway.