Any other married couples both of whom were deaf and dumb?

+3 votes
In the Cayley Name Study I have one married couple both of whom were deaf and dumb: and This must be extremely rare, and it was noted as exceptional in some newspaper reports of the mid-19th century. Has anyone else come across married couples both of whom had this condition?

Incidentally, their children seem not to have been deaf and dumb: and one became a long-standing Member of the United Kingdom Parliament.
WikiTree profile: John Cayley
in The Tree House by Michael Cayley G2G6 Mach 4 (45.4k points)
I knew of a couple who were both deaf and dumb when I was a child in the late 1940's, but I don't know their names.  They lived in the same apartment house in Brooklyn, New York as I did and I remember visiting them a couple of times and being fascinated by their light system.  There were light bulbs hung in every room that would flash a few times whenever the doorbell was rung.  The wires strung across every room at door top level connected all the lights - sort of a Rube Goldberg affair.  They had 2 or 3 children, all of whom were unimpaired.  Since I was so young and also did not have frequent contact with them over an extended period, this is the extent of my memory of them.
Back in the late 18th/early 19th century the couple in my name study, who were quite well off, must have relied heavily on servants and on other family members living close by to make their lives easier. Between themselves they must have used a combination of writing and some form of sign language. One wonders how a poor deaf-and-dumb couple would have coped. Nowadays, I guess tablet computers and the like would make communication for a deaf-and-dumb couple much easier.

3 Answers

+6 votes

My great-uncle George Reeves was deaf and married a deaf woman. He was an advocate in Canada for the rights of deaf people. 

by Laurie Cruthers G2G6 Pilot (115k points)
+4 votes
The island of Martha's Vineyard (also known as Dukes County) in Massachusetts historically had a high rate of hereditary deafness, resulting from a recessive gene that got concentrated in the island's isolated population. I imagine there were many married couples who were both deaf and dumb. Read more about it (and the island's sign language) at
by Ellen Smith G2G6 Pilot (990k points)
+4 votes
It's probably much more common than you expect.  First of all the deaf tend to form groups from deaf schools and deaf friendly events (people who have read all of the Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy  should know what I mean.) And a lady I know from church works as a bible translator into Mexican sign language and has a lot of stories about families with both parents deaf and often mute as well. So someone who communicates via sign language is likely to be attractived to another signer.
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (395k points)
Thank you for using the word mute. I think it is important to recognize that dumb is not a good descriptor for the inability to speak.

Deaf myself, and living in England, I am conscious that the most acceptable words to describe loss or absence of hearing and inability to speak orally vary from one part of the English-speaking world to another: what is ok or normal in one country is not always sensitive in another. And terminology has been, and continues to be, changing. The first part of the Wikipedia article is informative, but written from a largely US perspective. Nuances in some other parts of the anglophone world would be a bit different.

I fully apologise if my use of the word ‘dumb’ caused anyone offence. In England it continues to be widely used in its original sense of unable to speak orally, and this is highlighted in a dictionary I have of differences between American and British English. I think there could be some sensitivities here about referring to someone as “deaf-mute” or variations on that, because of negative overtones connected with cognitive and intellectual abilities.

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