52 Ancestors Week 34: Tragedy

+15 votes

52 Ancestors and 52 Photos sharing challenge badgesTime for the next 52 Ancestors challenge!

Please share with us a profile of an ancestor or relative who matches this week's theme:


From Amy Johnson Crow:

Week 34's theme is "Tragedy." Our ancestors were no strangers to hardship and loss. We should remember those stories as much as we remember the stories of triumph.

Share below!

Participants who share every week can earn badges. If this is your first time participating and you don't have the participation badge, or if you pass a milestone (13 in 13, 26 in 26, 52 in 52) let us know hereClick here for more about the challenge. 

in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
This one isn't too hard for me... My 6th Great Grandmother was Phoebe (Tucker) Cunningham. She was born in 1761 and in 1785 was captured by Shawnee Indians who murdered 4 of her children. She escaped. For more info see Tucker-2753

67 Answers

+17 votes
Best answer

In 1913, at the age of 28 with three young children, my second great uncle Ira Ray Watson died while trying to rescue a neighbor who had been overcome by gas while digging a 74-foot well. The neighbor died too.  Ira received the Carnegie Medal.



by Julie Kelts G2G6 Mach 5 (55.5k points)
selected by Robin LaPlante
It takes a hero to put their own neck on the line when someone else is in need.
+19 votes

52 Ancestors, 52 different surnames--

This week it's not as much of a stretch.  The Pancoast family emigrated from Northamptonshire to New Jersey in 1680.   Edward Pancoast with two sons and six daughters arrived on the ship "Paradise" and shortly afterward presented his certificate of removal from Ugbrooke Monthly Meeting.  Their son James had not been seen for many years, having mysteriously disappeared from his apprenticeship to a watchmaker.

This, by the way, is one of two stories in which an ancestor of mine arrived in America under the same circumstances: apprenticed to a watchmaker, he was kidnapped by a press gang and taken to America.  My ancestor Josiah Payne was pressed into the Royal Navy and jumped ship in Philadelphia.  Maybe press gangs had a habit of preying on watchmakers' apprentices?

In this case, James Pancoast https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Pancoast-189 was sold into indentured servitude in Maryland and spent years working it off.  He was in Maryland the whole time the rest of his family was in New Jersey, and nobody knew! 

And then, having served his time as a "redemptioner" in Prince George's County, he obtained, on October 1, 1687, a tract of land, known as "Pencott's Invention."

Finally, by 1734, he heard that the rest of his family was in New Jersey.  What a glad reunion that was!  But tragedy struck once more.  While returning home to Maryland, and making plans to relocate to New Jersey, he was drowned while fording the Potomac River.

Once again the family waited anxiously for news.  Finally a legal action was begun by his heirs, the William Pancoast family.  In the early 1800s the suit "Pancoast's Lessee vs Addison" returned "Pencott's Invention" to the family. It is the text of this suit that tells the tragic tale.

by Margaret Summitt G2G6 Mach 5 (51.8k points)
+20 votes
Well, this is an easy one for me.  I had twin brothers and Rich (or Rock) had a birthday today, However, the tragedy occurred later in the year.  He was the starting center for the football team of Marshall University. My parents went to the game and offered to give Rich a ride back to Marshall, but  he turned it down to ride with the team.  For more details click on DARDINGER-8
by Dave Dardinger G2G6 Pilot (395k points)

Dave, I am so sorry for your brother's loss, and sad to say that is one of my favorite movies.


I am sure you have found all of the links relating to your brother, but I found this one, and wanted to share it with you. It sounds like Rich didn't necessarily have to be on the plane that day.

I just can't tell you how sorry I am for you and your entire family. Please accept my condolences.

Happy birthday to both of your brothers, Dave!

My heart goes out to you, your parents, Rock's twin and the rest of your family.
+16 votes

Abigail Willis Mathews always tugs on my heartstrings though I'm not directly descended from her. Every time I read what my third great grandfather Increase wrote about the death of his first wife, I want to cry. Even more tragic is the fact that she had to be reburied because her first resting spot was prone to flooding.

by Diane Hildebrandt G2G6 Mach 1 (18.2k points)
what did he say? :)
It's included in her biography, but here you go :)

"June 14, 1802, Abigail, my dear and faithful wife, departed this life at 7 O'clock in the morning; just two weeks after the birth of her child. Her age was 24 years, 9 months, and 25 days; being born Aug. 20, 1777. God has taken from me the joy of my heart and the delight of my eyes; and I am left (far from all connections and friends,) to mourn her loss. She was a kind and faithfull wife, and an agreeable companion. May God, by his grace, enable me to bear with patience this affliction, and may it be "good for me that I have borne the yoke in my youth"."
Thanks, sorry I was too lame to see the link!
+16 votes

A tragedy for my husband's grandmother, Eunice Hennen, and their whole family was the death of her younger sister, Florine. When Eunice was 16, Florine, who was only 8, died in the arms of their father of diphtheria. I was able to find among her photos an envelope with the terribly sad and sweet newspaper article about Florine's death. This article had been handled so much that I could barely keep the thin and worn pieces together to add to Florine's profile. I was also having to wipe away tears from reading about Florine. 

by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Mach 8 (81.3k points)
Alexis, what a sad obituary to read. However, she was very blessed to be loved by so many. So brought so much happiness into this world. I hope her family remembered her that way.

It is so difficult to lose a child of any age, but us knowing that diphtheria can be cured today, makes this death even sadder.

Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Cheryl for letting me know you could read the obituary. I have been concerned that it was not readable.
+17 votes
This is the story of my 1st cousin 3X removed, Lena Miller (1863-1946). I don't know why but amongst other sad tales, her story really touched my heart. I think because there is so little of her life to know! She was the firstborn daughter of Victor Friedrich Müller an early immigrant to California in 1847. She lost her mother in 1888. Available records show she lived at home in Oak Park, Sacramento, CA. until the death of her father September 26, 1916. She moved to Clark's Sanitarium for 14 months and then self committed to Stockton State Hospital Dec 5, 1917 where she lived for 29 years until her death at age 83 in Jan of 1946. Her cremated remains must be in one of two mass plots used for residents.The record of her commitment states her problem. Epilepsy from the age of 12.  What did she spend her time doing? Did she do work at the hospital? Did her siblings come to visit? Why didn't she live with family? Questions Questions. My goal is to see if hospital records are available in Sacramento somewhere to learn more about her. I have not added her to Wikitree yet, but here is a link to her commitment record. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1URAaLWFKEXuA4T00QpdznJ3C9ltbXd_m/view?usp=sharing
by Lyn Sara Gulbransen G2G5 (5.9k points)
edited by Lyn Sara Gulbransen
Sadly she probably came into the "system" at the height of the Eugenics movement where epilepsy was listed right along side moronism, idiocy, and lunacy. The fears that "white trash" would reproduce and eventually outnumber the "fittest families" was ramped up by the social scientists, mental health advisors, and politicians of like minds. Your story caught my attention as I am currently reading a book called "White Trash" and am on the section that specifically discusses the merging society and culture of America at that time, and how poor southerners were thrown into the basket of "deplorables" by the elites of the time.(along with people like your Lena) It is so very sad. And poor Lena was just a victim of the times. A wasted life. Thanks for sharing.
Thank you Kittie!!
I had an 3X great grandmother in a Texas  Sanitarium.  When I tried to get a copy of her records,  I was told I'd have to create an estate for her and make myself executor of said estate in order to get them.  My lawyer said that could get really expensive when there could be little to no info in them. If the sanatorium still exists,  you might want to email them and find out what the state laws are regarding access to the records.
Hi Michelle! The records for Stockton State hospital are in the California State Archives and most are available as long as they are 75 years old so I think I'm good. Now to see if there is anything of note in them!
Another book on the same subject is "Annie's Ghosts" by Steve Luxemberg.  He discovered an aunt he didn't even know had existed after his mother's death.  The aunt too had been institutionalized in the 1940's and the secret of having a "defective" family member apparently was not uncommon.
Such a sad story. In the state hospital where my great-grandfather was institutionalized (Civil War veteran who couldn't deal with the horror he'd seen...what we now call PTSD), besides "lunatics" there were also wives who ran away from abusive husbands, women who gave birth out of wedlock and other social "deviants"...as well as epileptics whose families couldn't or wouldn't care for them. Sometimes the staff did the best they could, but there are many horror stories.
Kittie, the horrors of the eugenics movement is something I think modern-day America is barely even able to face. Entire families condemned as having "inferior genes" (the so-called "Kallikaks" were portrayed as feeble-minded, a piece of fiction that also omitted the many successful members of the Wolverton family!). Meanwhile, despite the distaste for poor white trash, corrupt and evil organizations such as the Tennessee Children's Home Society robbed those same poor whites of their children and sold them to wealthier, childless families.
+15 votes
My grandparents, Harold "Hal" Knott Rammel and Oma M Allison-Rammel, were very much looking forward to having their first child.

They had already picked out the name.  No imaging available at the time.  So, if it was a boy, it was to be James "Jimmie" Allison Rammel.  Not sure what the choice would have been for a girl.

They lived in Long Prairie, Minnesota at the time, which was 1917.   They had not been their long, so had not yet made friends and had no family there.

Getting close to her due date, for support, Oma went to have her first child at her parents home in Assumption, Christian, Illinois.  

Her father, Francis "Frank" Asbury Allison, was the local Railroad station manager.  One morning Oma was visiting the station.  She was about to open the front door when her father pushing a luggage cart hit the door with some force.  When the door opened it hit my grandmother hard in the area the baby was waiting at the time.

Oma had some minor bleeding, but a doctor told her things looked OK.  The baby was born a few days later on 18 FEB 1917.  He appeared to be OK.  

However, Jimmie finally left this earth on 03 MAR 1917.  So, he made it for about 2 weeks.

For the rest of his life, Frank tended to blame himself for the tragic death.  All tried to reassure him that it was not his fault and was just an accident.  

And, more important, that there was no evidence that the accident had anything to do with the death.  Jimmie just didn't wake up one morning.  It was very possibly just the result of what is now called ... crib syndrome.

Hal and Oma went on to have three (3) more kids.  A good thing, or I wouldn't be here!  

Then the next tragedy was for Hal to leave this earth in 1930 at the young age of 37.  But, that is another story.
by Bill Sims G2G6 Mach 3 (30.6k points)
+15 votes
I just finished a book by NT Wright, Bishop of Durham, a collection of Holy Week sermons delivered in Easington Colliery where, on 29 May 1951, there was an explosion in the coal mine. Eighty-one miners and two rescue workers died. Gotta check out and see if this is covered here on WikiTree.
by Pip Sheppard G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
+21 votes

My great-great-aunt Anna Laura Childs married Dr. Junius B. Shacklette, and they had twin sons born in 1910; Junius Blancit Shacklette, Jr (known as "J.B."), and Junius Childs Shacklette (known as "J.C."). J.B. was killed at the age of 3 in an accidental gasoline fire that also injured his father and twin brother.

My 4th great-grandfather Samuel Handy's family is basically a study in variously assorted tragedies; he was orphaned at an early age by the deaths of both parents, his first wife Maria Chase died in childbirth with a daughter who also died, his second wife Priscilla Winder Handy (his 3rd cousin) died in childbirth with a daughter (named after her mother), following the earlier deaths of 2 of her 7 children; his third wife Mary Corbin died of tuberculosis at the age of 33; his son Levin, an officer in the US Navy, died aboard the USS Constellation in Hong Kong Harbor in 1842 (and both of Levin's then-living daughters died not long after; his widow never remarried); his daughter Priscilla married Dr. Edward White, and died in childbirth with a daughter who lived 16 days; his son Henry, who never married, died aged 29 after a lifetime as an invalid who suffered from "rheumatism and partial blindness".

by C Handy G2G6 Mach 4 (47.8k points)
edited by C Handy

Sure was hard to "upvote" this sad tale! crying

How sad. Can't say much more. crying

+17 votes
My 4x great grandparents had 13 children. Only two of them reached adulthood.
by Jelena Eckstädt G2G6 Pilot (239k points)

This is heartbreaking. broken heart

Unbelievable. How did they go on?
+17 votes

During my research I have read thousands of death register entries, especially for the late 1800s, so I have got used to the high rate of infant mortality and the deaths from diseases that are now curable so in context I don't find them as shocking because they were of their time. 

But I am always affected when I find the death of a young mother as a result of childbirth especially when she leaves behind a young family.

I have one such tragedy in my direct ancestors and that is my G3 grandmother Emma Gibbs White who died as a result of the birth of her seventh child.

Fortunately her husband remarried and through that marriage my G2 grandparents met and without them I would not be here.

by Ray Hawkes G2G6 Mach 2 (23.3k points)
+26 votes

I had assumed that all of my great-grandparents had died before I was born.  When I started genealogy I began looking and was shocked to find that my great-grandmother died when I was an adult.  But I never even knew her name until she had passed.  I have met many of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and all my cousins tell me how great she was.  It will forever be a tragedy for me that I didn't know she was alive and that I could pick up the phone and just say hello.

Lola Ruth (Hitchler) Baty:

by SJ Baty G2G6 Pilot (615k points)
Yes SJ, and it is a tragedy for her that she did not have the chance to know someone as wonderful as you.
SJ, I don't know how something like that happened, but it was a real tragedy for both you and her that you didn't get a chance to meet. She would have loved you like we all do.
I had no idea my great gram was alive in Florida until I came across her obituary on google. I did some research and found that my great uncle took care of her and had her cremated so she could be interred with my great grandfather whom I had never met. When I went to the plot I was informed by the memorial garden that they still have not gotten her remains.

My grandpa passed away when I was 6. Had I known she was still alive in 2007 I would have called her and spoke with her to answer some questions about her side and my paps side. Turns out from research that my great gram was a prominent historical researcher and helped to write a book on one room school houses in my area. Seems to me I know where I got my history buff genes. I wish I would have known her but am happy that there are still folks who knew her and my pap to share some awesome stories of them.

I feel your sadness is what I'm saying. I hope that you find some interesting tid bits along your journey to bring her closer to you even in death.
I can understand your sadness about not being able to meet her. It is a shame when families get disconnected from one another.
+12 votes

Did I ever tell you the tragedy of Darth Plageuis the Wise, Eowyn?


Eh, you aren't gonna get it here. Just a story involving natural disasters and death. That's tragedy for ya. 

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (250k points)
+17 votes

My great great grand uncle Edwin White was struck and killed by a train when he was 18 years old in Verndale, Minnesota.  His obituary made me cry when I read that "The affliction upon the parents and other relatives of the unfortunate young man is severe, and their grief is almost uncontrollable".  It was over 130 years ago that Edwin died but the emotions revealed in his obit still touch my heart.  Losing a child is the worst imaginable pain.

by Caryl Ruckert G2G6 Pilot (139k points)
Caryl this is such a tragic story and especially since the circumstances were shrouded in mystery would make it so much harder for his family.
How sad, Caryl, and I can understand how the death of a child could make someone grieve uncontrollably.
+15 votes

There is one part of my family which has always seemed more tragic than others. Annie (Mills) Donaldson's mother died when she was a very young child. However, the real tragedy was her own family. She and her husband had sixteen children, eight of whom died as infants and another three as young children, of illness or accident. Another made it to just thirty years old. Only four managed to live long enough to get married.

by Linda Hawkes G2G6 Mach 2 (20.8k points)
+18 votes

On Saturday June 30, 1956 a tragedy occurred when two planes, United Airline Flight 718 collided with TWA Flight 2 over the eastern end of the Grand Canyon.  At the time this accident resulted in the greatest loss of life in any accident of the time.  Every person, including the crew, on board these two planes was killed – 128 persons.   

Most of the TWA victims were buried together in the 24 by 72 foot Grand Canyon Memorial Plot.  Exactly half of the United passengers were identified and returned to their homes for burial.  The 29 unidentified passengers were represented by four coffins interred below a United Airlines Accident Memorial in the Grand Canyon Cemetery.

Among those unidentified bodies that had been on the United flight was a six year old girl, Carol Jean Church, who would have been my husband’s step-sister had she lived.  She had been on the flight with her maternal grandfather on a trip to Chicago.  His unidentified remains are also interred at the Memorial in the Grand Canyon Cemetery.

For the whole story see http://www.doney.net/aroundaz/grandcanyoncrash.htm

The memorial for the United Airlines unidentified remains located in the Grand Canyon Cemetery.

by Robin Shaules G2G6 Pilot (387k points)
Thank you Robin for sharing this memorial, and 128 lives lost is certainly tragic. Knowing Carol Jean was only six makes it that much more tragic.
Thank you, Alexis.
Robin, such a sad story. Even sadder that United Airlines was unable to identify all of the passengers.

And little Carol on the flight is horrible.

I am so sorry.
Thank you, Cheryl for your sympathy. Perhaps if they had had DNA testing back then there would not have been any left unidentifiable.
+16 votes

Unfortunately, I, too, am finding this a far easier prompt this week. The only difficulty is deciding which tragedy to write about--there are so many. 

This weekend I worked on the profile for Ola Lee Hildreth Allen, one of my great-aunts, who was killed instantly in an automobile accident when she was only 21 years old.

Then, today, I worked on the profile for Allison Van Nette Hildreth, a great-aunt by marriage, who died one day after giving birth to her son. She was only 27.

by Nelda Spires G2G6 Pilot (123k points)
Yes, it is amazing how many lives we are connected to and in genealogy we see hundreds if not thousands of names and we have a chance to know their stories.  Unfortunately, there are many tragedies in them.
My sentiments exactly
+13 votes
52 Ancestors, Week 34, Tragedy

This is not really about my ancestors, but my family. My mom is one of five children. And the tragedy in our family starts with her youngest sister, my Aunt Joanne. Aunt Joanne was dating Mike Loftus. He was a good friend of my mom and dads. Mike had a massive heart attack and died. But he was not found for several days. They pronounced him dead on 21 Mar 1981. Mike was 57 years old.

My Aunt Joanne's daughter, Jolene came home for the funeral. We live in Illinois, but Jolene's dad lives in Indiana, the next state over. She went to visit her dad with her husband Eric. On the way home, a man crossed the center divider and hit them head-on. Jolene was killed instantly on 22 Mar 1981. Jolene was 20 years old.

My sister, Diane, went to a shuffleboard contest. On the way home, the back rear passenger tire of her car went off the road. She over-corrected and went into a field. She hit a post and was killed instantly. She died 3 Nov 1991. Diane was 37 years old.

My mother's sister, Aunt Jean had a son, David. He was one of a set of twins. He was at his house one night wrapping Christmas presents. What the police have told us is that someone broke in and shot him in the heart with a gun. He was killed instantly, and the day was 22 Dec 1994. David was 22 years old.

My dad had a massive heart attack and died 27 Feb 1995. Dad was 66 years old.

My cousin Alan came home for my dad's funeral. When he returned to Florida, his son Sean was missing. After hiring detectives to search for his son, Sean's bones were found, and he was positively identified and pronounced dead 28 Oct 1996. Sean was 20 years old.

My son died from a massive heart attack and wasn't found for two days. He was pronounced dead 17 May 2015.Michael was 46 years old.

My mom's brother, my Uncle Ray's son Michael suffered for 2 years with cancer. Mike passed away 11 Mar 2017. He was 57 years old.

Up to this date, my mom and all of her siblings were still alive. Each one had lost a child, except my Aunt Jane, who lost a grandson.

On 22 Feb 2019, my Aunt Jean (who was my Aunt Jane's twin) passed away from COPD and lung cancer. She was 83 years old.

I only used my maternal family tragedy. My husband and I lost 13 immediate family members in the first 13 years of our marriage. One uncle died two days after we were married.

But our lives have been blessed.
by Cheryl Hess G2G6 Pilot (808k points)

heartheart heart heart heart


Thank you Melanie!
Cheryl your family certainly has had more than their share of tragedies. The loss of sister and your son had to have been terrible tragedies. Your attitude that you feel blessed says a great deal about your strong faith that has carried you though this. Thank you for sharing your family this week.
Thank you, Alexis. Without God in my life, I don't think I would have lived through the loss of my son. You are so kind, and I know you know what I am talking about.
Cheryl, my heart goes out to you. But you show us every day that you have not been beaten down by tragedy. You are always kind, encouraging, and upbeat.

Thank you, Robin. That is so nice of you to say. I hope I am encouraging. I try to be. heart

+13 votes

Plagiarising my own words from the profile of my great-great-grand-Uncle John Gordon:

Tragedy Strikes the Family
As reported in the Empire on Wednesday 29th March 1865, a "terrific explosion" occurred at the dry dock in Waterview Bay, Balmain, the day before, where 3 persons were known to have been killed and 6 others dangerously wounded.  Those killed were Joseph Porter, engineer's apprentice, aged 17, originally from London, skull fractured, scalded, and otherwise injured; John Gordon, turner, lower part of body smashed; scalded and bruised; and Robert Craig, fireman, leg blown off, and so disfigured that, he could only be recognised by his hands and the watch, chain and waistcoat he had been wearing.  Craig left a wife and two children.

As reported in the Empire on Thursday 30th March 1865, John's youngest brother, Samuel Gordon (who would have been aged 16), identified the body of his deceased brother, John, aged 27, an engineer.  An inquest was begun on the 29th March, at which Dr Owen B Evans deposed that he was a legally qualified medical practitioner residing in Balmain, and that at around half past ten the previous morning he had been called to the dock where he found Joseph Porter and Robert Craig dead and John Gordon dying.  Dr Evans described the conditions in which he found Porter and Craig and went on to say that Gordon died soon after his arrival.
The further examination of the witnesses to the inquest was postponed until Tuesday the 4th April at 10 o'clock.

As reported in the Empire on Wednesday 19th April 1865, the delayed inquest into the Mort's Dock explosion was concluded before the City Coroner, at the Warwick Castle Inn, Balmain, on the 18th April.


Adding to the family's tragedy, John's brother Robert and wife Mary had two children two years apart; one in 1872, the other in 1874.  Neither survived long enough to be named.


Their sister Margaret lost her second child (a son) at the age of 2 years, due to a chest inflammation after measles.  She then lost her first husband to a boating accident a couple of years after brother John's death in the boiler explosion.  She remarried, and lost that husband as well.  She then married for a third time.  (A real never say die type of woman.)  Margaret was the grandmother of my longest-lived (known, at least) cousin .. 105 years.

by Melanie Paul G2G6 Pilot (209k points)
+10 votes

This is a very loose interpretation of the theme for this week, but as there are not many major tragedies in my family I thought this was the closest I would come. Winifred Utting (nee Taylor), my great-grandmother, was not a supportive mother in terms of the education of her daughters. Despite having one daughter graduating as a nurse and another with a Bachelors degree in a time where women were still looked down upon in academia, and she was, of course, proud of them after the fact, Winifred was not supportive of women receiving education in the era because as they were destined to become housewives it was work and money which would go to waste.

by Amy Utting G2G6 Pilot (149k points)

Related questions

+5 votes
15 answers
259 views asked Aug 23, 2018 in The Tree House by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (621k points)
+8 votes
21 answers
178 views asked 1 day ago in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
+13 votes
40 answers
957 views asked Sep 16 in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
+13 votes
49 answers
1.2k views asked Sep 9 in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
+12 votes
47 answers
716 views asked Sep 2 in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
+14 votes
43 answers
721 views asked Aug 26 in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
+12 votes
40 answers
783 views asked Aug 12 in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
+11 votes
47 answers
894 views asked Aug 5 in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
+20 votes
47 answers
737 views asked Jul 29 in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)
+13 votes
50 answers
471 views asked Jul 23 in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.4m points)

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright