Sunday, October 28, 2018

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 43

The past few weeks I have been out of town and didn't have access to my genealogical information in order to write, so I am getting back in the swing of things with this post about Cause of Death. The most unusual and perhaps saddest cause of death that I have come across so far is that of my 2nd great-uncle, John A. Colgan. John was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in late June of 1880, and he died 22 August 1881 in Cincinnati at the age of 14 months. He was buried 23 August 1881 in Section 2, Lot 12, Part S, Range 10 of the Saint Joseph’s New Cemetery, where the rest of his family was also laid to rest.

His parents were Edward C. Colgan and Bridget (McHugh) Colgan, both of whom were born in Ireland and died in Cincinnati. John was the youngest of nine children, six of whom died in infancy or early childhood. On a death card which I found at the Cincinnati Department of Health, the cause of death for John was listed as “inanition”.

John A. Colgan death record
Inanition is the same as starvation, which is a severe deficiency in caloric energy, nutrient, and vitamin intake. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition, which is the biggest contributor to child mortality. The most common cause of malnutrition is poverty. But were the Colgans impoverished?

On the 1880 census, taken on 10 June 1880, Edward Colgan was listed as being 45 years of age and working as a bookkeeper. His wife Bridget was 35 and a homemaker, and also living in the home were the following children: Catherine age 16, Charles age 11, Barbara age 9 and Clara age 7. (Clara died the next year of smallpox at the age of 8.) Obviously John was not yet born at the time the census was taken. This particular census year doesn’t indicate if those listed owned or rented their homes, though if someone was a boarder, that was noted. The Colgan family was not shown to be boarding at the home on Mill Street.

It would certainly seem like Edward would have been able to adequately provide for his family. What caused the baby to die of starvation? And how did these parents handle the loss of yet one more of their children?

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