52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 13: The Old Homestead

After the end of World War II, my parents moved back to Los Angeles, after being sent around the country during my dad’s time in the Army.

charles l keene, jr, and bula helen keene, 1943
Mom and Dad in 1943

Dad was looking for work, and he heard from a buddy that the Navy was looking for civil engineers out at a place in the California desert called Inyokern.

Yes, it was a Navy base in the desert. At a dry lake bed.

So, around 1946, they packed up their two kids and drove the 120 or so miles north of LA to check it out. And, sure enough, Dad was hired as a pipe-fitter at the Naval Ordinance Test Station, which was first located at Inyokern, then moved across the valley to Ridgecrest. This Navy base in the desert has had several name changes through the years: NOTS, China Lake (after the dry lake bed there), and now NAWS China Lake (Naval Air Weapons Station).

At first, Mom, Dad, and the two kids, Robert and Jeanne, lived in a little trailer, waiting for base housing to be built. This really was a bit like pioneer days. There just wasn’t much out there.

jeanne and robert by trailer.jpg
My sister, Jeanne, and my brother, Robert (Bob)
trailers in desert.jpg
Navy “housing” in 1946

My parents eventually moved into proper base housing, a duplex. And, in 1947, my sister, Charlotte, joined the family.

bula and charles' home in NOTS bse inyokern, 8-47.jpg
My parents’ “upscale” on-base duplex

My brother, Don, arrived in 1955, and about that same time, my parents decided to move off base to a place of their own. Ten miles west across the valley, three miles north of the small town of Inyokern where NOTS was originally planned, Mom and Dad bought one acre of land.

empty plot.jpg
Dad, marking out the foundation

If possible, this was even rougher than the base was when they had originally arrived. It was barren.

They built a four-bedroom, 2-bath house, with the living room windows facing to the west for a view of the Sierras.

framed in.jpg
Foundation and walls

In 1958, when I was born, my parents were still working on the house, although they had already moved in. In fact, the house wasn’t completed for years. I remember tar paper on the inside walls, and we used the open studs for shelving.

Dad was talented at working with his hands, and he was very, very clever. He did much of the work to finish the house, using his carpentry and pipe-fitting skills. He soon added a shed and a garage, as well.

As their family grew to include my younger brother, Richard, Mom and Dad added on to the house.

An expansion to the living room
new back porch.jpg
A back porch and family room addition

As Dad worked on the house and outbuildings, Mom was busy putting in gardens. She planted grape vines along the driveway, grew an abundant vegetable garden, put in iceplant under the dining room window, and placed flowers where ever she could. She made our little acre of the desert blossom.

Mom, Bob, Don, and me in the garden, and Dad trimming the grape vines, 1961

Not too long after they moved in, my parents began acquiring animals. There were cows, goats, sheep, chicken, ducks, geese, cats, and dogs.

6-61, Charlotte and Blossom.jpg
My sister, Charlotte, with Blossom the Cow
barbara, sue, beth, sheep.jpg
My cousins, Beth and Sue, with me and one of our sheep, about 1968

Dad also put in our well.

6-65, charles, richard, pipe for new well.jpg
Richard and Dad at the new well

We ate many of the animals we raised. When the chickens grew too old to reliably lay eggs for breakfast, they became our dinner. (I plucked a lot of chickens.) My dad eventually put up a tripod next to the well to help him with hanging the larger animals (either those we raised or what he got on his hunting trips) after butchering. We ate lots of organ meats, not wasting any edible parts. I grew up on chicken gizzards, liver and onions, and home-grown vegetables. It was just our way of life, but I’m sure it seems foreign to most modern-day Americans.

As their children grew up and left home, and they grew older, Mom and Dad began to scale down the farm. There were fewer and fewer animals, and the garden became smaller.

sir rooster the boss, 1970.jpg
Mom kept the chickens after most of the other animals were long gone

A year after I married and moved away, and my younger brother off in the Marines, Mom and Dad sold the old homestead and moved to Nevada.

Forty years later, I can hardly recognize the place. I drove by several years ago on my way home from a visit with Mom. It was hardly recognizable. There are now neighbors on both sides and across the street beyond the railroad tracks. The once-empty pasture behind the house has been subdivided. The well, my old landmark, is gone.

I can’t say that I miss the place. It was the only home I lived in as a child, so I feel a bit nostalgic about it. But, it was hard in many ways. It was dusty, hot, and lonely. But, it was home.

‘Til next time.



52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks| Week 12: Misfortune

I am the product of misfortune.



On both sides of my family, but more so on my dad’s side, I exist because of the early death of a first wife.

On my dad’s side of the family, his father, Charles Keene, Sr., was widowed very early in his first marriage. His wife, Thelma, passed away due to typhoid fever about a year and a half after they married. They never had any children. My grandfather remarried within a year and had six children with his wife, my grandmother, Perpetue Bergeron.

KEENE-charles sr-BERGERON-perpetue-1937-329 w ave 38.jpg
Charles Sr. and Perpetue, my paternal grandparents

Charles Sr.’s father, George Augustus Keene, also lost his first wife, Ellen Piper. He then married his son-in-law’s sister, Lydia Ann Thompson, and my grandfather, Charles Sr., was born from that second union.

KEENE-george a-THOMPSON-lydia
My paternal great-grandparents, George Augustus and Lydia Ann Keene

George Augustus’ grandfather, Tubal Keen, was also married twice. He first married Susanna “Suky” Glover and had two children with her before she passed. He then married Sarah Ruck, who was possibly the sister of Susanna. (I need to research this more.) Tubal and Sarah had three children, and I descend from their son, Washington Sr.

Several generations further back in my tree, Josiah Keen was the first Keen in my family to come to North America. He, too, was married twice. His first marriage was to Abigail Little, a Mayflower descendant. But, we descend from his second wife, Hannah Dingley, whom he married after the death of Abigail.

On my mother’s side of the family tree, my third great-grandfather, William Gard, lost his first wife, Sarah Woodruff, just four days after he returned home from a British prison camp in Detroit during the War of 1812. He was left with a toddler and an infant. Just months later, he married her sister, Phebe Woodruff. They had three children, and I descend from their son, William Perry Gard.

There are more branches in my tree yet to be explored, so who knows? There might be more instances of misfortune that led to the Providence that created me.

A while ago, I found a poem entitled, Second Marriages. I saved it, not knowing where or how I would use it. Seems appropriate here.

Second Marriages

When in the flush of life and hope,

The springtime of their lives,

Our fathers loved and wooed and won

their neighbors’ girls for wives;

Though oft with blindness Cupid gave a blessing or a curse,

they married them and brought them home

for better or for worse.

But when time passed, alone again,

Another mate was sought,

They gave less heed to sentiment,

and more to prudent thought;

they made the matter business,

and, oft in writing shown,

the wife retained what she possessed,

the husband kept his own.

Salem S.P.

‘Til next time!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks| Week 11: Lucky





I’m not a big believer in luck, so I had to ponder this prompt. (Do you see a trend here?) I began to think about other words used to describe a seeming happenstance that worked out beneficially. The words above are just a few of what I came up with.

I’m especially fond of “Providence,” defined as “the foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.”

And, “serendipity” has long been one of my favorite words, not only in definition but in speech. It’s just fun to say!

And, what, you’re saying, does all this have to do with genealogy?

Well, I’ve been “lucky” quite a few times in my family history quest.

Just recently, I won a pass to RootsTech. The classes I took have given me some new knowledge and encouragement to continue my pursuit and to do it better and more efficiently. I hope that my improved research and organization skills will lead to more stories.

And, just a few weeks ago, I wrote a post on how I finally found the parents of Washington E. Keen by fortuitously stumbling onto a will.

What I didn’t realize until after I had written that post, was that the enumerator in the census that led to this discovery had made an error.

Sarah’s last name wasn’t Keene at all!

Here’s the entry in the 1855 Massachusetts state census:

1855-state census-KEEN-lydia kent-washington jr-sarah kent-lydia keen-lynn MA 1

If you look closely, you can see that underneath the “Keene” in Sarah’s entry, in very faint handwriting, is the last name “Kent.”

For whatever reason, the enumerator or someone else had written over “Kent” with “Keene“.

Kent is the maiden name of Washington’s widow, Lydia, seen on the first line. It’s probable that this is a relative of Lydia’s. (Though, it’s not her mother, whose name was Judith.)

This “lucky” error sent me on a trail to hunt down a Sarah Keene! I never would have looked for this name, and wouldn’t have found the will of the right Sarah Keen, if not for this serendipitous “mistake”.

Here’s to more “propitious” mistakes!

“Til next time!


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 10: Strong Woman

I pondered this prompt for a few days, again thinking that I had too much to choose from and not knowing where to go. And, then it struck me yesterday: one of many strong women in my family was actually named “Strong.” So, here we go!

My Nanna Wells had one sister, Dola Zella (Gard) Strong, my great-aunt. I’ve written much about my Nanna, and trust me, there’s more, but I’ve not written much about her younger, and only, sister.

Dola was born November 1, 1902, six years after her sister, Vida, (my grandmother). Dola and Vida were the only surviving children of my great-grandparents parents, Willis Gard and Eva Kesterson. Willis and Eva also had a son as their firstborn, Lex Bion (no idea where that name came from), in 1888. Little Lex only lived two years, two months, and 11 days.

vida and dola gard 1911 e. 2nd st. 1905-1
Vida and Dola, aged 9 and 3, LosAngeles

I don’t know that Vida and Dola were close as they grew up, but I knew them to be so as adults.

vida and dola gard, 1907 e. 2nd, st. los angeles, ca

gard-dola-miss america benj franklin dedication parade-los angeles
Dola as Miss America in the Benjamin Franklin Library dedication parade, Los Angeles, June 1916.

Just today in my research for this post, I found out that Dola graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School, not far from where I live. Take a look at these images from her yearbook:

1920-poly tech HS yearbook-gard-dola-long beach CA (1)


to vida, june 22, 1920, dola z gard-1
Dola, age 19, high school portrait, 1920


In 1922, Dola graduated from the University of California, with her General Elementary Certificate. Both Vida and Dola would become teachers with long careers in the Los Angeles school district.

dola gard's graduation brochure cropped (1)

dola gard's graduation brochure (2) edited

Dola and Vida, on Vida’s wedding day, October 3, 1920.

Aunt Dola married my Uncle Frank Strong on July 29, 1923, when she was 22.



Dola and Frank never had any children, but they were a wonderful aunt and uncle to me and my siblings. Stern, but very loving. Much like my grandmother!

Another thing Aunt Dola had in common with my Nanna was her lack of culinary skill. Neither of them were very good cooks, but rather average with forays into awfulness, thankfully punctuated with many restaurant meals. They were both career women, not homemakers.

One epic Thanksgiving at Dola’s house (Frank had passed away at this point), we all struggled to eat a horribly gooey, seemingly raw, pumpkin mousse pie. My kids got a very stern eye from us, with a mouthed and stage-whispered, “Eat it! Just eat it! Don’t. say. a. thing. Don’t! If we have to eat it, so do you!” 

In their later years, Dola and Frank moved from Los Angeles to Fallbrook. They bought an avocado farm and built an adobe brick house with historically accurately thick walls nestled in the grove. It was lovely, cool and shady.

strong-frank-dola-house in fallbrook (2)
Dola and Frank’s new front porch in Fallbrook.

Our family would often visit Aunt Dola on our vacations from Oregon to California. We were always greeted with hugs, pressed to her strongly girdled mid-section. Just like Nanna’s. She would often generously send us home with furniture or heirlooms. We have several lawyer’s bookcases that she kindly gave us.

Aunt Dola passed away in 1989, a few years before we moved back to California from Oregon. She lived out her last few years in a nursing home, where we would visit and have lunch with her in the grand dining room.

She was a strong woman, way ahead of her time educationally and professionally. Her strength was tempered by her affection for me, and I knew she loved me.

“Til next time.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 9: Where There’s a Will…

Not a will, as in last and testament.

Not a Will, as in William or Willis.

But, rather, a will, as in determination or decision!

I was determined to try to find a way to get to RootsTech. So, I entered every giveaway for a free pass that I came across.

And, I won a pass from the Family Locket blog, written by mother-daughter team Diana and Nicole. Thank you, ladies!

I leave early tomorrow morning, arriving in Salt Lake City in time for early registration. I found a little room via AirBnB, and I’ll head over there as soon as I finish up at the Salt Palace. Classes begin as bright and early on Wednesday.

I hope to come home with lots of ideas and knowledge, perhaps a selfie or two with some of my genealogy idols.

‘Til next time!


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 8: Heirloom

And, once again, just as in my previous post about my plethora of photos, I have an abundance of material for this prompt.


There’s not a room in my house, including the bathrooms, where you will not find something from the people who came before us and the homes they inhabited.

  • Linens
  • Military Uniforms
  • Machinists’ Chests
  • China Cabinets
  • Lawyers’ Bookcases
  • Bibles
  • Chamber Pots
  • Canning Jars
  • Grain Sacks
  • Tea Cups
  • Quilts
  • Etc., Etc., Etc.

I’m grateful for these little pieces of life, even if it can sometimes be overwhelming to determine if I really, really “need” yet one more piece of a previous life. Especially as I do have a serious aversion to do-dads, chachkies, and knick-knacks. I hate to dust, and I don’t like clutter. Yet, here we are, with stuff.

So, I rationalize having these mementos by not buying shot glasses, trinkets, or souvenir plates on vacation. By staying out of IKEA, Home Goods, and thrift stores. (For the most part; sometimes, it’s unavoidable.) By walking past garage sales on Saturday mornings.

So, why do I have all this stuff then?

Because it all ties me to my family, to my people. It reminds me that I have a history. It tells me a story.

This arrangement of spectacles is a great example. I realized one day, sorting through a box of random items, that between my husband and me, we had inherited quite a few pairs. I began collecting them from boxes here and there, eventually finding these eight. (I have since found a few more, but I’ve not gotten around to putting them in the frame.)


The top two pairs of glasses in the right column belonged to my Nanna Wells. When I look at those, I can see, I can remember, they way they sat on the crook of her nose. I remember the color of the powder on her face and how she smelled.

The pair of glasses right below Nanna’s is a mystery. We don’t know whose they were. But, I can imagine.

One of the original bows is missing, and in its place is a bent and uncomfortable-looking piece of bailing wire. In my mind, I see these on the face of a smelly, sweaty boy, with mud in his ears, who jumped out of hay lofts and caught frogs in the irrigation ditches.

His parents bought him these glasses, and they most likely were an extra expense that the family could ill-afford. (We don’t come from money, you see.) So, when he wrestled a pig one day in the barn and broke the bow, this is what he got. There was no money for a repair. There was barely enough money for the glasses in the first place.

So, his mother sighed heavily and shook her head. His dad got out the wire cutters and went to work with a material that was a readily available on the farm: the wire that was wrapped around the many bales of hay.

And, this is why I keep these heirlooms. To remember those that I miss. To remind myself that life wasn’t always so easy.

To remember that I am blessed.

‘Til next time.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks|Week 7:Valentine

I came across this letter in a collection of postcards and correspondence from my Aunt Gwen’s (wife of my dad’s brother, Uncle George) research. I almost blushed while reading it!

It’s a very heartfelt letter from my lovelorn Grandpy Keene to my apparently impassive  Nana Keene, before they were married. (I wrote about my grandfather here and here, searching for information about his first wife, Thelma.)

This letter was written February 20, 1912, at 1AM, just about 116 years ago this month. This was just a few short months after Thelma’s death on September 3, 1911. In the letter, he addresses Nana as “Pearl,” one of the many nicknames for my grandmother.

It reads:

13 Hampton Ave. Northampton, Mass. Feb. 20, 1 a.m.

My Dear Pearl,

Where are you to-night? Not hurt or sick I trust, but where are you, “Gee” if only I knew, if you knew how my heart bleeds to know, not because I am angry at not meeting you, but because I am so worried to where you are, to know if you are well and to know all about you, you know the feeling in my heart for you, you know the unrest, and thought I have in your safety, your comfort and your happiness so please for my sake let me know that you are safe and well just as soon as it is possible so that I too may be happy and know that everything is well with you. The train was one hour and forty minutes late in Northampton which made it as late that I couldn’t go out to the house and inquire for you and I will not be able to look for you until two o’clock in the afternoon for you see that is the reason I am writing you now, in hope it will reach you before that time. Pearl dear, this is the the first disappointment or unpleasant occasion we have had in our acquaintance so you let me right as soon as possible, won’t you? Am sending a few roses which I hope won’t be “all in,” when you get them as I had them at the station last night for you. I also have two more surprises for you and  the first time I see you, when may I, and the other Washington’s Birthday.

Now trusting everything is O.K. and that I shall receive a note, a phone, a call of some kind of communication with you to-day, believe me to be Your True Friend, 

With Love and Sincere Wishes, 


Tis good to live and love so don’t blame me it is is 2:30 a.m. now, and sleep won’t come to me, for when our mind is not at rest with what we hold dear, sleep is impossible-so don’t get me wrong and think that I am selfish or cross for I am not it is just anxiety in my mind which makes me that way tonight, and if I could pray, I would ask God to bless you and keep you, but I guess I am too much of a sinner for that now, but perhaps you can teach me some day for already you have done so much for me. 

Her lips were like the red, red rose

Her eyes like stars shine true

Her neck was like the swan’s

I loved her-wouldn’t you?

keene genealogy (264) copy

Wow… that’s a lot of emotion and run-on sentences, isn’t it? But, it must have worked its magic, as Charlie and Pearl were married June 4, 1912.

Wishing you all a Happy Valentine’s Day!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks| Week 6: Favorite Name

I must tell you that this prompt didn’t really inspire me, especially after coming off of last weeks’ high. So, in light of the fact that this is my blog, and I can do what I want to, I’ve decided to take a bit of a riff on the theme.

Three names repeated in my family lore are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The names come from the Bible, in the book of Daniel. They were three Jewish captives who refused to comply with the edict of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to bow before an idol. As a result, they were thrown into a burning furnace, and due to the intervention of God, were not consumed by the fire. When Nebuchadnezzar witnessed the miracle, he praised the God of the three faithful young men.

My family story goes that there were three Keen brothers, also named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who immigrated to Colonial America. Two stayed in the north, while one went south. These three were supposed to have been the first of our Keen ancestors to come to North America.

I have searched, but I have found no evidence to back up this story. Now, I’m positive that I have not exhausted every avenue of research. But, with on the evidence found in Sarah Keen’s will, I believe that the story of the three brothers is just that, a story. However, in most family stories, there is a kernel of truth, as we shall see.

Based on my finding evidence that Tubal (also known as Jubal*) Keen was Washington E. Keen, Sr.’s father, I am able to search back further in that line. Here’s a visual of what I had before last week (follow the red):

Keen Line

Based on Sarah Keen’s will and her marriage record to Tubal Keen, my line now looks (something) like this:

Keen Line 2

I traced this line back to London, England, to Josiah Keen. Josiah, born in 1620, emigrated in 1638. If this tree, and my initial research is correct, he is the original Keen to come to North America, dispelling the three brothers story.

But, where are the kernels of truth in the family story?

I found Tubal’s (Jubal) baptism record in the Pembroke Massachusetts Vital Records, which listed his parents as Francis and Margaret Keen. He was baptized November 1758.

I found the marriage record for Tubal’s parents, Francis and Margaret, in the same vital records. They were married November 1, 1739.

Based on birth records for Massachusetts, Francis and Margaret had at least four children while in Pembroke:

  • Francis, born June 20, 1740
  • Tubal (Jubal), baptized November 1756
  • Meschech, baptized October 8, 1758
  • Nancy, baptized June 7, 1761

And, there’s that name, “Meschach.”

Tubal, son of Francis, and Sarah had four children:

  • Shadrach, born 1795
  • Nancy
  • Margaret
  • Washington, born circa 1810

And, there’s that name “Shadrach.”

No Abednego in sight, though!

I think that with time, the generations became conflated and the story subject to error and “telephone.” The nuggets of truth remained, in that two of the names are correct. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time!

Until next time!

*Tubal transcribed as Jubal shows up in at least one other record. I believe that in cursive, “T” and “J” can often be confused. Much like “Keene” in cursive becoming “Kune” in a census record.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Weeks 4 “In the Census”

Wow! Wow!! Wow!!!

Don’t let the boring-sounding title for this post throw you off, people!

I busted through my brick wall!!! 

And, silly me; I thought that this would be a ho-hum post.

I was scrolling through my files, looking at census pages, trying to find something interesting for this prompt when I came across a census page for Lydia Keen/e, enumerated in Lynn, MA, 1855.

This Lydia, my great-great grandmother, is the widow of the elusive Washington E. Keen, Sr. (~1810-1844). She’s one of the three Lydia A. Keen/Keenes I have in my tree: the wife of Washington, Sr., his daughter, and his daughter-in-law (my great-grandmother).

The 1855 Massachusetts state census page lists the household residents and their ages as follows:

Lydia A. Keene, 45

Washington Keene (Jr.), 14

Sarah Keene, 57

Edmund Keene, 19

Lydia A. Keene, 45

Now, I don’t know who the second Lydia A. here is…or if the first Lydia was mistakenly listed twice. But, I will tackle the Lydia problem on another day.

What caught my eye was the name Sarah Keene and her age of 57. Now, this is a name that I hadn’t come across in my Keen/e family yet.

Could she be Washington E. Keen, Sr.’s mother, Lydia A.’s mother-in-law? It wouldn’t have been unusual for a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law, two widows, to combine households.

If this Sarah was 57 in June 1855, she would have been born approximately 1798. She would have had to have been awfully young when Washington, Sr. was born, if his birth year is ~1810. Not likely, but not impossible, either.

Could she be a sister-in-law? Either a sister or the wife of a brother of Washington E., Sr.?


So, I did a little sleuthing on Ancestry, looking for a Sarah Keen. One of my hints was a probate record from Suffolk County, MA. The year of the probate was 1826, so this Sarah Keen was definitely NOT the Sarah Keene in the 1855 MA census.

However, there was a will attached, and I decided to read further.

And, my friends, there is was:

Will of Sarah Keen; 1826

It reads:

“… and bequeath all my property and estate, real personal and … to my four children and one grandchild to them and their heirs forever, vis. my four children Shadrack Keen, Nancy Morris, Margaret Stickney & Washington Keen…

There it is: Washington Keen was the son of Sarah Keen, who was the wife of Tubal Keen. 

Do you remember a while back I had a post about my search for Washington Sr.? You can read about it again here and here, if you don’t mind your eyes rolling back in your head trying to figure out all the relationships! But, to summarize, I posited that Shadrack Keen might be brother to Washington Sr., based on their sharing of Tomb 27 at Christ Church and living close to one another as listed in the Boston city directories.

And, I had found records that Shadrack’s parents were Tubal and Sarah, so if Shadrack and Washington Sr. were indeed brothers, then they were Washington Sr.’s parents, too.

And, ta-da! They are indeed brothers! Tubal and Sarah are Washington, Sr.’s parents!

And, to bring the title of this blog post full circle, I have found the 1810 US Census listing Tubal Keen, who I now know to be my great-great-great grandfather, and his household. They were living in Boston, on Clark Square.

1810 Federal Census; Tubal Keen is the fifth listed.

I never expected to write this post today! I was thinking it would be oh so boring… But, now I have a whole line to explore, and I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about that very soon!

“Til then!

PS: I still don’t know who Sarah Keene was in the 1855 Massachusetts census. Perhaps widow of Shadrack? I’ll be searching!

January 2018: The Flu

As I write this, there’s a rather serious flu outbreak in the US. As of today, January 26, at least 30 children have died. The death toll for adults isn’t as clear.

As serious as this year’s flu outbreak has become, it pales in comparison to the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1920. It affected approximately 50 million people, resulting in the deaths of 5 to 10 million. In the United States, estimates put the death toll at somewhere between 500,000 to 675,000, with about 28% of the population affected.

Not to take the toll from this season’s outbreak lightly, but it does pale in comparison.

This came home to me as I was researching this past week. I came across a death certificate while looking for something else and just happened to notice the date and the cause of death: 1919, influenza.

And, the light bulb over my head turned on.

The death certificate I was looking at was my great-great uncle’s, Washington E. Keene, Jr. (son of the infamously mysterious Washington E. Keen, Sr.). He passed away December 30, 1918. The death certificate listed “broncho pneumonia” as the the primary cause of death, with the contributing cause of “influenza.”

While looking at my family tree, I noticed that his wife, Eliza Bartlett, passed on January 29, 1919, just a month after her husband. Her death certificate lists her cause of death “general arterio sclerosis,” but it seems reasonable since the flu was present in their home, it could have been a contributing factor.

(The elderly are often hit very hard during flu epidemics as their immune systems are often weakened.)

This little epiphany made me wonder what other family members might have succumbed to the Spanish flu. So, I went sleuthing.

And, here’s a bit of what I found:

My great-great grandmother, Anges Mercier Gaumond passed away November 18, 1919, at the age of 79. I don’t have a death certificate for her (yet), so it’s unclear if her death was flu-related.

My great grandfather, George Augustus Keene, Sr., passed away from cardiac failure on March 7, 1919, aged 85. The death certificate mentioned a contributing factor of what looks like ‘influenza.” It’s unclear as the writing is difficult to read.

A great aunt, Annie Louise (Keene) Clarrage, passed on May 9, 1919, two days short of her 42nd birthday. The cause of death is bronchial pneumonia. Caused, I suspect, by the flu.

So, there are five people in my tree alone, found in a quick search, all who very probably passed away as a result of the Spanish flu or its complications. Quite sobering, especially when compared to the total of 30 children who (sadly) have passed away from this season’s flu. I don’t think my family was affected significantly harder than any other normal American family. When extrapolated out across the US population, the numbers and families involved in the Spanish flu epidemic are truly staggering.

My take-away: wash your hands, don’t touch your face, use the little wipes at the grocery store for your cart, and take your vitamin C. Seek medical help if you do get sick.

Most of all, love on your family while they are here for you to do so.