Friday, December 12, 2014

Sympathy Saturday - Hopes Dashed

I've posted several times about my 2nd great aunt, Bessie Dugan. She died shortly after giving birth to her daughter, Elizabeth "Betty," by c-section in 1918. I was obsessed about finding out what happened to her daughter. Why? Bessie's parents, William and Mary Quirk nee Lee, had 9 children...only 2 of them married and had children of their own. My great grandfather, Edward Quirk, was one of them. Bessie Dugan nee Quirk was the other. I was in disbelief that so few had gotten married.

At first I had assumed that Betty had died near the time that Bessie did, but then I found her in a 1920 census with her dad. I won't go into too much detail. I've already done so in other posts which I will link to at the bottom if you'd like to read more. The point is I've been searching (and hoping) not just that I'd figure out what happened to her, but that I'd hear that she lived and that she had children and that there are other branches to my Quirk family to get in touch with.

Hopes dashed.

Pennsylvania Death Certificate - Elizabeth Dugan child of Dennis and Elizabeth nee Quirk

Mystery solved. Betty didn't reach her fourth year of life. She died from diphtheria in 1922. How absolutely heart-broken her father must have been to lose them both. How heart-breaking it was to find that death certificate and have it confirmed that my Quirk line is the only one that lives on.

In her death certificate her place of burial was listed as "Hazleton Catholic Cemetery." Yeah...thanks. No cemetery by that name. Bessie is buried in my family cemetery, St. Gabriel's, in Hazleton. So is Betty. I contact the church (now Holy Annunciation) and they have little Betty in their death register for 1922. Sadly they don't have a plot number for her. Their assumption is the same as mine...that she is buried in the same plot as her mother. I'll be looking for that obituary when I go back to Pennsylvania next summer. Hopefully, it's not on one of the Standard Speaker's many missing rolls of microfilm. If it is I'll have to go and seek out an obituary in Bethlehem.  The bottom line is that I want them remembered though. Always.

Ambiguous cemetery listed for burial
I'm grateful for the advances of modern medicine. Diphtheria isn't a concern anymore. We have a vaccination to protect against it. I'm amazed that Bessie died of c-section complications and not the influenza pandemic that was peaking at the time of little Betty's birth. Perhaps that was a contributing factor, but it's not in her certificate that way. I'm equally amazed that little Betty was able to avoid the flu and then die just before her fourth birthday from diphtheria. Diphtheria was certainly a killer of children, but to live through a terrible pandemic to die a few years later is desperately sad. The odds were not in her favor.

Dugan posts:
Wisdom Wednesday - I Live For These Moments
Amanuensis Monday - Two Steps Forward and One Step Back
Amanuensis Monday - The Long Lost Dennis Dugan
Tombstone Tuesday - Another Brick in the Wall
Amanuensis Monday - Always Searching for Bessie


  1. I'm surprised to read that Bessie had a C-section in 1918. I don't really know much about gyn/ob in the early 1900s but for some reason I assumed C-sections were a mid-century "innovation." I can't imagine the horrors of that method of delivery when anesthetics weren't what they are today. She must have been a very strong woman.

    I agree that it's strange that so few of the siblings married. I hope you find the Betty's obituary without too much difficulty.

    1. Thanks, Nancy. I was very surprised to find out about the c-section when I originally did because I thought the same thing. In fact, my assumption was that if they were preforming a c-section they must have already written the mother off. I don't really know much about the history of the c-section. I should look into it.

      Now I just need to find that obit and try to figure out where exactly in the cemetery she is buried. The caretaker has a book that is different from the one in the rectory so maybe he'll be able to confirm it or direct me to where she is if it isn't with her mother.

      Thanks for commenting :)

    2. I found this website giving a fairly brief history of the c-section. Apparently they'd been going on for quite some time. At the time of Bessie's c-section (unless I read it wrong) the survival rate was about 50%. Not great odds, but better than I expected.

  2. Cheryl. First time reader of your blog and I like it. Good for you for finding this record. At least now you know.
    A similar situation in my own family where six children born to my great grandparents and only 4 married. Of the 4 who married there was only one child born, my father. My great grandfather too was an only child. Makes it darn difficult to search those collateral lines. There just aren't any. Thus the brick wall on my 2nd great grandfather.
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