This posting is slightly late for Halloween. I'm plagiarizing Nathan Murphy's idea posted on the FamilySearch Blog with his Death Chart. Basically it's a pedigree chart, with the names replaced by your ancestors' causes of death. The cause of death of my ancestors has always been of particular interest to me, especially the antiquated terms used — for example, dropsy, phthisis, consumption. Although I've had these summarized in lists, seeing them in pedigree chart format is much more revealing.
My paternal and maternal charts through to my 3rd great grandparents are shown in Figures 1 and 2. I created these in Family Tree Maker, but instead of inserting the name, I inserted the cause of death (with my own interpretation in square brackets) and the age of death in parentheses, and formatted the chart to include Ahnentafel Numbers (with me, #1, as the root person).
The cause of death of many of my ancestors in the 1800's was frequently due to conditions that are rarely issues today. Many died of infectious diseases, which are usually easily treated today with antibiotics or were transmitted mainly due to poor housing and cramped conditions. Several died due to complications of childbirth (sometimes along with the new baby), mainly due to lack of antenatal care and unhygienic practices.
Despite their difficult lives, it was reassuring to see that of the 60 ancestors where I know the cause of death that 33 (47.1%) lived to at least 70 years, 17 (28.3%) lived to at least 80 years, and 2 (3.3%) lived to over 90 years. Not all of these 60 ancestors are included in Figures 1 and 2. My oldest ancestor, Sarah Dixon (~1755-1849), my 4th great grandmother (who was also my most distant direct maternal ancestor), died of old age aged 94-95 years – and on the same day as her daughter, my 3rd great grandmother, Elizabeth Hetherington (1786-1849), who died of cholera.
Of my 7 (11.7%) relatives with known causes of death who died before they reached 50 years, 4 were due to infectious diseases (2 due to tuberculosis and 2 due to typhus fever – Note: typhus is not the same as typhoid) and 2 were related to childbirth. Infectious diseases (tuberculosis, typhus, influenza, and cholera) were the cause of death of 11 (18.3%) of my ancestors and cancer in 3 (5.0%) of them.
What's New on GenealogyJunkie.net?
- My DNA Results from 4 Companies – now complete and with updated AncestryDNA ethnicity percentages added (22 September and 18 October 2013)
- 3 short YouTube videos on DNA (near the bottom) – including an amazing animation on DNA wrapping and replication (added 29 September 2013)
- How Long does it Take to Receive the Results? – updated and now complete for my results (26 September 2013)
- Webinar and Tutorial Links – NEW (added 17 September 2013)
- Complete List of Surnames (Ancestors + all blood relatives) – NEW (9 September 2013)