Sunday, 30 May 2010

Sentimental Sunday: He died of the flu

Samuel Murch Haywood, my paternal great-grandfather, is the ancestor I always use when teaching others how to start their family history.  Maybe because the name 'Murch' is so unusual, so you know when you've found him in the birth-marriage-death indexes! Maybe because he had the same birthday as my father (21 May) although, because he was born in 1872, he would have been in his sixties by the time Dad was born.

He was one of the first of my discoveries when I started out in my genealogical detective work, and also one of my first surprises.  When I looked over his death certificate, I saw to my astonishment that the cause of death was 'influenza'.  Influenza! My ancestor died of influenza! (that seemed rather feeble to me) and he was only wasn't until many years later that I learned about the 1918 influenza pandemic that killed between 50 and 100 million worldwide.  Samuel died on 17 October 1918 in Devonport, Devon, so he would have been one of the first to succumb; although he was a brickmaker, he was in a port, which obviously increased his exposure to the disease.  I must find out why he was there...

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