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Friday, October 16, 2015

#25 - Jack's Family History

And here comes some rather disturbing family history, which I knew nothing about until now.

My Uncle Jim (actually my mother's uncle, my Great-Uncle) told me that this was his aunt - his father's sister, Nellie - and her husband, "Regimental Sergeant Major Smith" (John Moir Smith, 13 years her senior, and a member of the Seaforth Highlanders) along with their children.  It was taken in front of Seaforth Cottage in Garmouth.

What was interesting was that I never did find Nellie (Helen) in the census records, so I was wondering if my Uncle Jim was a little confused.  But he was pretty certain about it.

So this past week I was in touch with one of my mother's cousins and got a list of the children in my Great-Grandfather's family (himself included).  And there were 12 listed.  I've only come across the evidence for 5 of them, so again I was wondering if someone was confused.  But they weren't.

My Great-Great-Grandmother, Susannah McCurrach and her husband John, had 12 children.  The third born, Helen Jane (the woman in the photo), was given to an aunt and uncle (Alexander and Ann McIntosh).  The 7th through 12th children (Elspet, James, Robert, George, Susanna and Margaret) all died after Susannah was 35.

I did mention in the last post that one of the children died of Tubercular Peritonitis and one of Marasmus (malnutrition).  I had the order mixed up, though.  Those were the first (at 5 months) and third (at 7 weeks) children to die (not the first and second).  The second, James, died at 3 months from "(Supposed) Marasmus from Birth."  Not sure what that "supposed" means.  Did they not believe the parents?

The fourth child to die was George McCurrach, who died of Gastric Catarrh at the age of 2 months.  The fifth, Susannah, from Gastro-intestinal Catarrh at the age of 7 weeks, and the last, Margaret, from Marasmus at the age of 4 months.  All of those afflictions can be traced back to malnutrition.  Also remember that my great-grandfather, Jack, was only 5' 1 1/2" tall - probably also due to malnutrition, since his children were all average heights.

Several things have been going through my mind this week:  were they all malnourished?  Was Susannah (the mother) malnourished?  Did they just not have the money to feed more mouths?  Did they allow the children to die in order to feed their other children?  Could Susannah just not handle having any more children and let them starve?  How does a mother bury 6 children in the course of 10 years?  (Or - hopefully not, but knowing the anxiety and depression that runs in our family - could Susannah just not handle any more kids?  It may have simply been infanticide.  But I can't make that call.  I can't make that assumption.  Not without proof.)  Why didn't they give more of the children away?  What changed?  This certainly is a situation where it raises more questions than it answers.

Other things have also been going through my mind.  I have nothing on the face of the Earth to EVER complain about.  I have it so good I can't even imagine living like these people appear to have done.  I used to think that in gardening and canning and such that I was following in my ancestors' footsteps.  But at least for a while, it seems they couldn't even afford to have any land to grow food on.  Food must have been so hard for them to come by.

So more questions abound and I'm not sure I will ever be able to answer them.  But I'll try.

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