Thursday, January 08, 2009

100 years ago

I was bitten by the genealogy bug.

I was also bitten by the 19th century fashion bug. More precisely, the bug pertaining to the period of fashion between 1840 and 1920. (The better to date old photos.)

The side effect is that I have become one of those people who wants to shout out historical inaccuracies in the middle of movies.

"They won an academy award for this?! Women didn't wear bustles in 1900!"

Or, "That sleeve wasn't invented until 1880!"

Even, "That dress has an 1840s bodice and a 1910 sleeve!"

And so on.


The photo was taken in northwest Georgia, a little over 100 years ago. Judging from the baby's age and the plant growth: around September 1905. The two men in the middle (wearing bowties) are my ancestors three and four generations back. The older woman is my great-great-grandmother Martha, born in 1852. She's the daughter of Julia Ann of the broken heart.

The baby in this picture, Ennis, died in a Typhoid outbreak in July of 1921. A relative wrote:

"During the huckleberry season, about 9 people in our community had typhoid fever from drinking water from the stream in the mountain. Grace and I recovered." Seven others died.

My Mom told me that they normally started picking huckleberries on the 4th of July every year. Ennis died at one o'clock in the afternoon, on Sunday July 17th. He was 16 years old. (Antibiotic treatment for typhoid would not be available for another 27 years.)

I imagine his family had been frantic, calling two different doctors to see him. He had two death certificates, filled out by different doctors. The first began treating him on July 10th, and the second on July 13th.*

I love collecting stories about relatives from the past, but they are often so tragic.

The inscription on Ennis' tombstone reads, "Just in the morning of his day, In youth and love he died." This was apparently a fairly common saying to put on a young person's stone, and I wondered if it was from a poem.

I found in "Hymns for Christian Devotion" (copyright 1853!) one called "Death of a Scholar". It includes the lines,

Death has been here, and borne away
A brother from our side :
Just in the morning of his day,
As young as we he died.

I believe this was later changed in some churches, to this version I found listed from another tombstone:

Death has been here and born away
a brother from our side :
Just in the morning of his day,
In youth and love he died.

I also found "so fair and young he died" as an ending for this epitaph. It seemed to have been common to use just the last two lines.


* A historian at the Georgia State Archives told me that she'd seen two death certificates for the same person before, but never from two different doctors.


LauraP said...

YES! Just last week I was insisting that the woman in a certain photo had to be the great-grandmother of the just deceased relative, not two greats beyond or just the grandmother. Pegged the generation from the shoes & the dress bodice.

Love the stories, love the clothes, love piecing together the puzzle of all those past lives . . . and I'm so with you on the movie goofs.

katefear said...

wow, what a heartbreaker. That's the problem with ancestors, though, they're all already dead. There's a story behind every death, and plenty are tragic. Wouldn't give up the knowing, though.

My library just signed on for a subscription to Ancestry -- I have to get down there and dig through some military and immigration records....

kaylee said...

I know the feeling.
Once I saw a Little House on the
Prairie that was in WI and it
had a snow covered mountain in it.
In the summer.
So not happening ever!

W. Latane Barton said...

So, when did this bug bite you? I've been doing genealogy for over 40 years, still don't have it done. ha. Good luck.

The Country Experience said...

What a heartbreaking story.

You are so fortunate to have pictures of the people!

Rurality said...

Laura, whenever I learn stuff like that, I'm always amazed how completely oblivious I'd been before!

Kate, I have really gotten a lot out of Ancestry. I definitely recommend it!

Kaylee, oh don't get me started. :) Once I learned a few bird songs, I cracked up laughing at how out-of-place they usually are on tv. Of course then everyone else thinks you're a dweeb.

WLB, I don't think it's ever done! I started a long time ago, put it down, and then picked it back up a year or so ago.

TCE, yeah I wish I had them for all my families. I'm just lucky on this one.

Lythrum said...

Greetings from another Northern Alabama blogger. :) I like geneology too, but I'm lucky that my Dad has done most of the work on his side. It sucks sometimes to be knowledgeable on a subject and watching movies. I haven't enjoyed a war/military show since being in the military myself. Nice blog!

Annie in Austin said...

You have a wonderful, unusual skill, Rurality! Most of my own family's photos are dated (a coincidence, my grandparents' wedding photo was taken in September 1905) but I've got a mystery photo from a cousin. Wonder if the clothes could help her guess the date?

I've found myself arguing with a historical movie because the flowers were either not yet introduced or they are modern hybrids. Poor set designers would need a time machine for some stuff.

Happy New Year!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Pablo said...

Well, when I start making period films, you're going to be a paid consultant, that's for sure!

Rurality said...

Lythrum, glad to see you! I guess a little knowledge about any subject in particular will do that.

Annie, it's possible - well with a real expert it would be a sure thing but real experts are hard to come by! I could take a look at it - let me know if you're interested. If I can't tell I can forward it to more knowledgeable people. Ooh, I had not even thought about modern plants being in movies that are supposed to depict the past! Good one!

Pablo, I'm hardly an expert, but there are a few things that are really obvious once you learn a little bit.