Question of the Week: What unusual deaths have you found in your research?

+16 votes
919 views

500px-Question_of_the_Week-53.pngHave you found any unusual deaths while doing your genealogy research? Please tell us about them below.

in The Tree House by Eowyn Walker G2G Astronaut (1.6m points)
My daughter's great, great, great, grandfather had a son named Ernest. One night he was out joy-riding and damaged a plank bridge by having a plank come through the windshield and hit him in the chest. He died two days later and the township who owned the bridge sued his estate for cost of repairs. His father had to take out a bond to pay for it.
A lot of helpful safety tips this week. Don't marry a serial husband killer. Don't keep the broom in the bathroom. Don't put your head out the window during a lightning storm.  Be careful around sewing needles, harp strings, and kale roots. Be very careful around trains.

Thanks for the interesting question.

My 3x Great Grandmother was killed by a train while on her way to a tent revival meeting in PA, just shy of her 31st birthday.

Arbella (Hanna) Edwards

My grandfather drove his team of horses pulling a farm wagon to a railroad loading dock where some helped him load a large metal culvert onto the wagon.  The culvert slipped and made a loud noise when it fell.  My grandfather ran to calm the horses, but they bolted, trampling him and pulling the heavy wagon over his body. His son (my father) was only 3 years old at the time.

48 Answers

+16 votes

Indian Raid. The Koozer Family.

Scalping - The Kooser Family.

Redeemed. - The Kooser Family

I believe one of the children captured was the wife, Ida C. Koozer, of my 2nd great uncle, Joshua N. Garver.

by Tommy Buch G2G6 Mach 6 (63.5k points)
edited by Tommy Buch
+17 votes
My great aunt’s husband’s first wife’s brother slipped getting out of the bathtub and was impaled by a broomstick.

Also, two of the wife’s sisters died in the same hospital five minutes apart from unrelated illnesses.
by Wanda Cox G2G1 (1.3k points)
Your family tree is much like mine. It stretches out to include interesting people who do not fit onto a standard tree diagram. You have "my great-aunt's husband's first wife's brother." I have "my second cousin's wife's great-grandparents." That's what makes this hobby fun. Thanks for sharing.
Yes, indeed, it does, doesn’t it?  And in a further wrinkle, after I wrote this, I ran across information that indicates that the woman we always thought was the first wife may, in fact, have been the third wife, with my aunt being his fourth, rather than his second, wife. Yeee!!  Sometimes my “family tree” seems more like a bowl of spaghetti!
+18 votes

In doing research, I have found several railroad accidents, but this one about the death of my first cousin 3 times removed, Percifer Irwin age 16, has always seemed especially unusual and sad. This is a 1874 Western Union message explaining the accident, and why he and his older brother William were walking along the railroad tracks and did not hear the train that hit them. William was the only survivor of the five companions that were hit by the train, and he only had a broken leg. 

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (261k points)
Poor, poor souls. For want of 5 train tickets, so many young lives snuffed out. The wind may have obstructed their hearing as well.
Jessica thank you for your very kind comment. Yes, it is very sad.
what a sad story about your famiky Alexis, first your cousin, Percifer, do you know why he always was sad and different? how terrible they woukd walk on the railway and did not hear the train, that most have been terrible fow william had to se this.

i can imagine that is something he would never forget.

thank you sweet Alexis for sharing this
Yes, thank you Susan I have thought about William having to travel back home with his younger brother who was killed by the train. It must have been terrible. The cousin I met on WikITree had good photos of this family. Their oldest brother had died in Andersonville prison camp during the Civil War. I also found that the great great grandfather of my travel partner had also died as a prisoner in Andersonville. We had planed to go to the prison museum this past summer, but the virus caused us to cancel our trip.
William must have felt terrible on his way home.

How sad you did not made it to the Prison museum Because of the corona

This is sad about their oldest brother thank you for sharing this
That same situation happened a couple years ago in Chicago. Two police officers were chasing a bad guy across a railroad yard, stopped to let a train pass in front of them, didn't realize there was a second train also sounding its horn coming from the opposite direction. They heard the horn, saw a train, thought they were safe. Both were killed.

Rob, thank you for your comment. It is certainly sad that the two police officers were killed by a train, and it is a reminder of how dangerous trains can be. It also reminded me that my first cousin once remove Alvin Wayne George was killed by a train when he was 16 and tried to cross the tracks in his car. 

I live in NYC where every year we have at least a few dozen people get hit by subway trains (mostly from jumping, but some do fall or get pushed onto a track. A few years ago, a friend of a friend of mine was pushed by a crazy person onto the track and died.) Trains cannot stop on a dime and they completely destroy human bodies if they collide with them. All the stories in this discussion involving train accidents just increase my wariness of them. I used to work as a deckhand on boats, one very large at 3 stories and holding 600 passengers, and I'd rather work on a vessel any day than a train.
Jessica, that a absolutely awful about your friend’s friend! My travel friend and I love New York, and we stay in Times Square and ride the subway. I have always wondered about something like that happening. I am always a little nervous around the trains and try to stand back until the train comes. Thank you for your comment and information on the dangers of the trains.
+23 votes
Not in my direct line, but the answer has to be Francesco II Gattilusio, lord of Lesbos. In 1404, he was stung by a scorpion. This was not, however, what killed him. His cries of panic brought his servants and guards rushing to his chamber, and so many people crowded in that the floor collapsed and killed him.
by Jessica Key G2G6 Pilot (169k points)
Yikes! Remind me not to call for help!

Jessica, your story reminded me of in 1981, and two walkways collapsed at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Kansas City, Missouri, United States, one directly above the other. They crashed onto a dance being held in the hotel's lobby, killing 114 and injuring 216.

+16 votes

A sister of an ancestor of my mother, Charlotte Elisabeth Blume, born Schnarr committed suicide by hydrochloric acid poisoning on 24. Mar 1946.

by Dieter Lewerenz G2G6 Mach 6 (60.5k points)
Dieter, that's a scary story. It takes a lot of courage or desperation. It is certainly not an easy death. As a paramedic I have seen such deaths before, it is not a pretty sight.

Eeek! Awful way to go. My great great uncle died of strychnine poisoning after murdering the grandmother of a 13 year old girl he had been harassing!

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/247446446?searchTerm=Haneby%20forbes

+14 votes
There aren't many deaths that really stand out to me as unusual (my great nana Elsie May Mimms died 106 which was certainly far longer than most people). Many people in my family died of old age or disease.

Probably the most unusual one that I can think of is my paternal grandfather's half-brother Alan Sidney Dowding, who died suddenly of a heart attack when he was only 38 years old. Whilst I believe he didn't have any personal history of heart problems, there is a family background - his dad Albert Sidney Dowding (my great grandfather) and his grandad Horace Dowding both died suddenly in their 60s and, whilst both had no history of heart problems (and I don't have their death certificates to know for certain), I believe their hearts played some involvement in their deaths.
by Thomas Dowding G2G6 Mach 1 (19.1k points)
+13 votes

The most strange cause of death that I've found so far is my third great grandfather, Frederick Buck, whose death certificate says he was hit by a train. He was 80 years old, and the certificate states it was an accident, so I'm not sure if the crossings weren't properly marked back in 1946 in rural Ohio, or if he was just elderly and didn't hear the train coming, but I still find that really unfortunate.

by Raven Martin G2G1 (1.9k points)
+15 votes
My great-grandmother's sister Adele Cartier went outside in early spring, washed windows, caught "quick consumption" and died. Dying of "quick consumption" (whatever that is) is probably not usual, but the family story became that she died of washing windows. We are always careful to avoid her fate.
by Joyce Vander Bogart G2G6 Mach 2 (20.7k points)
I believe “consumption” was the term they used to use to describe the disease we now call tuberculosis.
It might be contagious!  So I'd better avoid her fate as well, and stay away from washing windows :)
+11 votes

"They tried to kill him with a forklift!"

The only really unusual death I can think of is the death of my great-grandfather, Alfred Francis Hamel. The obituary on his profile explains. He apparently died of a heart attack alone in his home on Plum Island. Plum Island is just outside of Newburyport, Mass.

He was a private man and my grandfather was really the only one who kept in regular contact with him since his parents were divorced. 

Just goes to show, you really shouldn't cut ties with people. His friends found him three days after he died. =( It's really sad.

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (354k points)
+16 votes

-My 5x-great-grandfather Newell Gascoigne who fell down a set of stairs while heavily drunk, resulting in spinal injuries that killed him a few days afterwards.

-My great-grandfather's first cousin Edith Paynter (not on WikiTree yet) who was attacked by a patient while working at a psychiatric hospital, triggering a brain aneurysm which killed her soon after.

-My 3x-great-grandmother Ellen Blackburne who died shortly after accidentally drinking rabbit poison (though the death was ruled to be unrelated).

by Maxx Martin G2G6 Mach 1 (10.3k points)
+17 votes
My great great great grandfather committed suicide by hanging and wrote a letter saying he was nagged to death by his wife.
by Anonymous Nagel G2G6 Mach 2 (23.7k points)
I shouldn't be...but I'm chuckling...
I agree with Carol's comment

Wikitree ID of my great great great great grandfather is Korn-276.  In the newspaper, it said “Trouble with his family is assigned as the cause of his suicide”, but the story passed down is my great great great great grandmother was on him about everything constantly, and he escaped by checking out.

+11 votes
I don't have anything to add, but I am immensely enjoying this thread!
by Michael Schell G2G6 Mach 2 (20.6k points)
+9 votes

The death I found unusual was that of Thomas Kells. 

The coroner found he died of injuries from an explosion of gelignite in a south coast of New South Wales Australia quarry work site at Tomerong in 1917. His brother reached him after the explosion before he died.  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Kells-289

by Rosalie Neve G2G6 Mach 3 (36.7k points)
+9 votes
My husband's grandfather's death certificate states he died of "general scalding".  Found this to be quite odd, and asked his sister.  She said the family always said he went to a steam room after drinking, fell asleep, and was found scalded to death.
by Cheryl Power G2G Crew (570 points)
+9 votes
My great grandfather on one of my mother's line was a brick wall.  Finally I ran across a newspaper article stating that one brother was in town and got into a fight with another man.  The older brother (my g grandfather) stepped in to try to stop it.  The younger brother got mad at him and pulled his knife.  The older brother drew his.  My great grandfather died immediately of stab wounds.  The younger brother lived another 3 days and died.  My great grandfather left a wife and four young children.
by Cindy Hubbartt G2G6 (8.3k points)
+12 votes
I have a distant cousin who was struck to death by the great church bell at a funeral toll in 1809.

Also a second cousin ten times removed, who was mauled by a bear in 1703.

Unusual, but not unique.
by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (375k points)
+9 votes
Donald Rowland married a black widow serial husband killer.

https://rowlandgenealogy.com/married-a-serial-killer/
by Ron Rowland G2G6 Mach 1 (12k points)
My God, that is one of the weirdest stories I've ever read.  Thanks for sharing.  Is Donald Rowland (dead husband #3) a relative?
Donald Earl Rowland had the same name as my father, but to the best of my knowledge, we are not related.
+6 votes

My wife's great-grandfather, James Henry Winter, and his father, Eliel Eliab Winter (yes, that was his name), were both farmers, and both died accidentally around railroad tracks. According to Eliel's death certificate, he was "killed by cars GTRR" (Grand Trunk Railroad) near Cobourg, Ontario. And his son James reputedly died because of a fall off of a load of hay at the train track in Lakeport, Ontario.

by Richard Hill G2G6 Mach 1 (14.3k points)
+5 votes

My great uncle Frank Taplet was a teamster in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. During a runaway accident he was thrown from his wagon and cracked his skull on the ice. He left a widow and 6 young children.

Another distant relative Marcus Heman Cornish was a conductor on the New York Central Railroad. He was rushing to deliver to the engineer, was knocked off the roof of the car by a low bridge, and crushed by the wheels of the train.

I also remember another elderly man who had lived with family after his wife's death, moved back to his own home, and was found a few days later down by a creek where he had blown himself up with dynamite.

Genealogy can be so sad....

by Kay Knight G2G6 Pilot (328k points)
+5 votes
I am the third great grandniece of Sophia (Gould) Roberts Gould-679.  Born in Nova Scotia to James Gould & his wife Sophia (Payne) Gould, she married there in 1820 and removed to New Hampshire, then to Fox Lake, Wisconsin. Her husband's journal, tracing his family's path to Fox Lake, Wisconsin, noted that they lost a baby when a spinning wheel fell on the child.  Today we have "tipover" accidents with furniture -- but the problem goes way back!
by Janine Barber G2G6 Pilot (165k points)
Janine, such a sad story about losing their baby when the spinning wheel fell on their child. It reminded me of a recent accident that happened to a lady I knew. She told me that she was going to be doing some traveling and staying with friends. The next thing I heard was that she was pulling down a Murphy Bed, and it hit her in the head and killed her.
It's really a tragic accident.  I can only imagine what the family must have gone through.

Thanks for your kindness.

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