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Influenza

As we have just “celebrated” another COVID new year, I’m fairly certain that we are all suffering from what the doctors at the University of Kansas Medical System have idenfied as CWS (pronounced COWS), or Covid Weariness Syndrome. As we march into January with more negative Covid news, have you wondered how the 1918 Influenza pandemic impacted your ancestors or distant cousins?

Since my grandmother lost her 7 month old son, Kenny, in 1919, I often wondered whether he was a victim of influenza. Since Kenneth Briles was admitted into a Kansas City Hospital prior to his death, his death certificate is available online. And that death certificate eliminates influenza as a possible cause of Kenny’s death. Instead, it indicates that Kenny’s cause of death was pyelo-nephritis with Dyspepsia as an underlying cause. Google helped me figure out that Kenny had an infection in his kidneys which caused his death. The underlying cause of Dyspepsia may have been E coli. How Kenny ingested the bacteria will never be known.

Since Kenny’s death was not from influenza, I forgot about the possibility that I had relatives die from influenza. That was until I encountered the obituary of Theodore Basil Christy. According to his obituary, Theodore died from pneumonia caused by influenza.

Burial of Basil Christy

Took Place Thursday Morning at Hills Church

The funeral of Basil Christy, a well-known farmer in the south west part of the county took place Thursday morning at Hill’s church and was very largely attended.
Mr. Christy’s death followed an attack of pneumonia, the result of Influenza and was a shock to the entire neighborhood, he being a man highly respected in the community and wherever known. He is survived by a wife and children and also by several brothers and sisters.
He was a member of the Baptist church his membership being at the Hill’s church.

“Burial of Basil Christy,” The Tipton Daily Tribune (Tipton, IN), 17 October 1918, page 1; digital image, Newspapers.com (www.newspapers.com : viewed online 27 December 2021).

This obituary was the first piece of information indicating that any of my cousins had died from influenza. However, I haven’t seriously looked thru my file to see if there are others. Even though I likely won’t deviate from my current research tasks, I wanted to figure out who I had in my file who died during the influenza epidemic that began in 1918. According to Wikipedia, there were four waves during this epidemic with the majority of deaths occurring in 1918 and 1919. To figure out who my potential victims of influenza might be, I created a group in my RootsMagic program.

Thus, I clicked on the icon that looks like a paint palette in the upper right corner of the program to open the Command Palette. Scrolling down the list of commands, I located the one allowing me to add or modify groups..

On the GROUP window, I clicked on the NEW button to begin the creation of the group.

Then I entered a name for my group. In this case, I’m naming the group, Influenza.

When I click on the OK button, the window changes allowing me to hand pick members for the group from everyone in my file or to use the MARK feature to let the program pick them. Since I don’t know who should be in this group, I’m gong to click on MARK and let the computer select based on the death information I have in my file.

When I click on the MARK button, a menu opens offering me several choices. For this group, I want to select them by their death date. Thus, I’m going to use ‘By Data Field’.

Now, I enter the ‘argument’ I want the computer to use to search my genealogy file. If I want to include all 4 waves of the epidemic, I need to include dates for 1918, 1919 and the first half of 1920. Thus, I could use the following argument.

However, if I’m only concerned about the deaths during 1918 and 1919, then I can use an OR statement to pick both years.

When I click on the OK button, the computer will search thru my file and return a list of those people for whom the argument would be true. When I used death date contains 1918 or 1919, I got 114 people. In order to save this group, I have to remember to click the SELECT button.

To view the list of group members, I can use the INDEX on the people screen. If I pull down the upside down carrot by SHOW EVERYONE I can find my Influenza group in my list of groups.

When I click on the group, the list of people changes to just those in my group.

Now I have a list of people who may have died from Influenza. Some day when I’m either extremely ambitious or extremely curious, I can work my way thru this list to see if any of them actually succumbed to influenza.

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