Genealogy Is Contagious
April 01, 2014
The year was 1918, and I knew that influenza was bad that year, but I didn’t realize it was one of the worst pandemics in history. While I was indexing some death records on FamilySearch, I noticed that almost all the deaths were from influenza. It was estimated that 20 to 40 percent of the world’s population became infected, and about 50 million to 100 million people worldwide died from influenza. What was odd was that many of the people who died were healthy adults in their 20s to 30s. So many young people died that the average life expectancy dropped in 1918. More soldiers died during World War I from the flu than from battle related injuries. Many public places, such as schools and churches, were closed to stop the spread of the disease; and many businesses were shut down because workers were ill or had died. All of society was affected.
What does this all have to do with genealogy? As I was indexing, I noticed that three entries in a row had the same last name. A young couple and their infant child all died within days of each other. I wondered how easy it would be to lose an entire family because an illness wiped them out. This family would have married, had children, and died within a few short years. Now when I research my own family and “lose” someone, I go back and look for death records. It is always possible there was an epidemic in the area where they lived.
Midwest Genealogy Center