Lisa Alzo, the Accidental Genealogist, has posted some marvelous blogging prompts for Woman’s History Month. The March 11 prompt: Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe and how did this affect the family?
I have previously posted information about my great-grandmother, Jane “Jennie” Johnston. I wrote a biography of sorts, a post about her locket, and a post about her burial place and the record of her burial that I found. Jennie died at the age of 21 on or just before 29 January 1888. Although I have never found Jane’s death record, I am confident of her date of death. Why? I kept looking, and finally found a record of Jane’s burial in the original city cemetery logs.
The circumstances related to the many early deaths in the family of John Johnston are mind-numbing, at least for me. When you read about my great-grandmother, you read the tragic story of the orphans Jane and her brother James, traveling to Cadillac, Michigan within a few years of the death of everyone else in their family. Just a few years after the two arrived in Cadillac, Jane died, leaving a daughter only two years old. That daughter was Winnie Alice Kaiser, my grandmother.
James Johnston’s wife was Elizabeth Kaiser, a sibling of William Kaiser. James and Elizabeth’s first two children died young. One, a premature birth or still born is listed in the cemetery logs as: Johnston, James, infant of, born and died 3 August 1888. No sex is given. The Johnston’s daughter Katie, born in 1890, died in 1894. Their only child who survived was Rae E. Johnston, 1892-1978.
Between the ages of fifteen and twenty-nine, James Johnston experienced the deaths of his parents, his four sisters, a niece or nephew, and two of his three children. This much loss is hard for me to imagine, even more than 100 years later.
Several years ago, I got together with my cousins, James’ granddaughter and two great-grandchildren. We poured over photos, tried to figure out who they were, and I shared my research about the Johnstons. James’ granddaughter, Kay, said that Winnie Kaiser, my grandmother, spent a lot of her time with James Johnston and his wife after Jane, her mother, died. It makes sense that the young widower, William Kaiser would require help with his daughter so he could work. Families enjoyed the benefit of living in proximity, something I miss today.
Since I visited the graves of the John Johnston family in Ontario, and realized the enormity of the occurrences, I have thought about this often.