Bring Out Your Dead

The following post deals with some seriously sad times in humanity’s history.
To help lighten up an otherwise gloomy piece, I have included a bit of British humor for your viewing entertainment.

The Black Death, also known as the Great Plague, was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history.

In October 1347, about a dozen Italian merchant ships returning from the Black Sea, one of the key trade routes to China, docked at the port of Messina, Sicily. Many of sailors aboard these ships were either dead or seriously ill. Although the authorities ordered these ships to leave the harbor immediately, it was already too late. Within days, the disease had spread throughout Sicily and onto the mainland. One eyewitness told this grim tale:

“Realizing what a deadly disaster had come to them, the people quickly drove the Italians from their city. But the disease remained, and soon death was everywhere. Fathers abandoned their sick sons. Lawyers refused to come and make out wills for the dying. Friars and nuns were left to care for the sick, and monasteries and convents were soon deserted, as they were stricken, too. Bodies were left in empty houses, and there was no one to give them a Christian burial.”

During the next five years, the Black Death killed nearly 25 million people throughout Eurasia, with some sources claiming that the Great Plague killed anywhere between 30 and 60 percent of the total population of these continents.

In Siena, a shoemaker by the name of Agnolo di Tura chronicled:

“They died by the hundreds, both day and night, and all were thrown in ditches and covered with earth. And as soon as those ditches were filled, more were dug. And I, Agnolo di Tura, buried my five children with my own hands. And so many died that all believed it was the end of the world.”

The rate at which this disease struck and killed was astounding. Giovanni Boccaccio, a noted writer and humanist of the time, penned that the plague’s victims often “ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise.”

For nearly 500 years (until circa 1840), outbreaks of the plague recurred throughout Europe, although none with the severity of the Black Death.

Many genealogists assert that a large majority of deaths between 1348 and 1350 can be attributed to the Black Death. Within both our direct and distant families are several possible or confirmed casualties from the plague, including:

  • Alfonso XI di Castile
    (my 21st great-grandfather)
    Died on 25/26 March 1350, in Gibraltar
  • Alexander de Seton
    (my 23rd great-grandfather)
    Died circa 1348
  • Anne of Bohemia
    (wife of my 1st cousin, 20x removed)
    Died on 7 June 1394, in London, England
  • Blanche of Lancaster
    (my 1st cousin, 22x removed and wife of my 19th great-grandfather)
    Died 12 September 1368, in Staffordshire, England
  • David Barclay
    (my 22nd great-grandfather)
    Died on 25 January 1350
  • Edward d’Angoulême
    (my 1st cousin, 20x removed)
    Died circa 20 September 1370, in Bordeaux, France, age 5
  • Eleanor di Portugal
    (my 22nd grandaunt)
    Died on 29 October 1348, in Jérica, Spain
  • Henry of Grosmont
    (my 21st granduncle)
    Died on 23 March 1361, in Leicester, England
  • Isabel de Beaumont
    (wife of my 21st granduncle)
    Died in 1361, in Leicester, England
  • Isabel de Verdun
    (my 21st great-grandmother)
    Died on 25 July 1349
  • Joan of England
    (my 20th grandaunt)
    Died on 1 July 1348, near Bordeaux, France, age 14
  • Margaret de Badlesmere
    (grandmother of my spouse’s 1st cousin, 20x removed)
    Died on 1 August 1349, in Cornwall, England
  • Maude la Zouche
    (my 21st great-grandmother)
    Died on 31 May 1349
  • Margaret Wake
    (my 21st great-grandmother)
    Died on 29 September 1349
  • Thomas de Beauchamp
    (my 20th and 21st great-grandfather)
    Died on 13 November 1369, in Calais, France

One hundred years ago, during the final days of the First World War, a new menace struck humanity on a global scale, this time virulent influenza dubbed the Spanish Flu. The conditions of the war (overcrowding and global troop movements) hastened the rapid spread of this disease.

What made this strain of flu even more deadly was the fact that even healthy young adults seemed susceptible. Because of the lack of vaccines and proven treatments, the flu quickly escalated into a public health crisis. Soldiers who had survived the horrors of the Great War were felled by this microscopic force.

This virus spread across the planet in 1918. By the spring of 1919, this disease had killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide; approximately 675,000 of those deaths occurred in the United States. During October 1918 alone, this virus killed an estimated 195,000 Americans.

Some possible or confirmed casualties of Spanish influenza or complications thereof include these direct or distant family members:

  • Alcinda M. (Eakle) Miller
    (my 3rd cousin, 5x removed)
    Died on 31 December 1918
  • Daisy Elizabeth (Yost) Knoebel
    (my spouse’s stepmother’s 1st cousin, 2x removed)
    Died on 25 October 1918, in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Drusilla (Wagner) Schlosser
    (wife of my 1st cousin, 5x removed)
    Died on 2 December 1918, in Sunnyside, Washington
  • Harry Pogue Spangler
    (my spouse’s 1st cousin, 3x removed)
    Died on 3 November 1918
  • Margaret Jane (Taylor) Trone
    (my 3rd great-grandmother)
    Died on 4 November 1918, in Downsville, Maryland
  • Maria L. (Marks) Clayton
    (my 5th grandaunt)
    Died on 26 December 1918, in Monmouth County, New Jersey
  • Reuben Benjamin Bush
    (my spouse’s 2nd cousin, 4x removed)
    Died on 1 November 1918, in Greensburg, Pennsylvania
  • Sallie Belle (Ellis) Ardinger
    (wife of my 1st cousin, 4x removed)
    Died on 17 September 1918, in Romney, West Virginia
  • Susan Mattern (Parks) Heitzenrater
    (mother-in-law of my spouse’s 2nd grandaunt)
    Died on 17 November 1918, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
  • Thomas Benjamin Dilatush
    (my 1st cousin, 6x removed)
    Died on 18 October 1918, in Warren County, Ohio
  • William Raymond Rhodes
    (my spouse’s step-grandfather)
    Died on 10 October 1918, in Catawissa, Pennsylvania
  • William Rice Thomas
    (my 2nd cousin, 4x removed)
    Died on 7 December 1918, in Mount Morris, Illinois
Categories: Cole-Marriner Line, Extended Families, Famous Faces and Places, Harwick-Bush Line, Noel-Ardinger Line, Spangler-Kenney Line, Taylor-Thomas Line, Watts-Stark Line | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Bring Out Your Dead

  1. As shared on the Heart of a Family’s May 2022 Genealogical Blog Party:


  2. Pingback: Book Review: The Orphan Collector | Princes, Paupers, Pilgrims & Pioneers

  3. Pingback: 52 Ancestors: Where There’s a Will | Princes, Paupers, Pilgrims & Pioneers

  4. Paul McNeil

    It’s an odd thing to say, but for the survivors in England, the Black Death brought opportunity. Peasants who survived were able to leave their serfdom in the village they were born in and work anywhere for the highest wages, which was actually illegal, but because of the lack of authorities to enforce the law, a determined peasant, coupled with a surviving lord who had lost his own peasants could defy the law with relative impunity.

    It gave us (in England at least) freedom from serfdom (something the French didn’t get till 1789) and confidence to mount the Peasants’ Revolt a few years later, and a whole new slew of surnames where people took the name of the original village they came from to identify themselves from the people in the new areas they moved to, many English surnames are a litany of lost villages, populations devastated by the Black Death, peasants spreading to other areas taking the village name with them.

    I covered some of this in a family tree I traced for British News Reader Vanessa Cuddeford (you won’t find “Cuddeford” on a modern map, as the Black Death wiped it out). You can see it here:

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Paul McNeil

    It’s flu, we get one every year, just that most of us in the West have immunity and medication.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Paul McNeil

    Love the Python sketch. Especially the tip on how to tell he’s the King! In a more serious vein, it means that all people of European heritage are descended from people who caught the plague and survived it, and there is some research to show that this has affected (in a positive way) their ability to cope with some modern diseases, including AIDS. A very real example of “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The Black Death has always astounded me every time I think about it. The scale of death is horrifying; you would just think the world was ending

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Scary thought, isn’t it? 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I wonder what the next global epidemic will be?

    Liked by 1 person

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