I am always struck by the high child mortality rates, particularly in the 19th and first half of the 20th century that I see in my family tree. I can’t imagine a parent’s pain and anguish faced with the loss of a young child and only when I became a parent myself, did I appreciate what my parents must have experienced with the loss of two children. While child mortality rates have very fortunately lowered significantly, families still face the dark world of losing a son or daughter. And I need to look no further than my parental family for an example (see I Remember Stephen).
A letter that Hadden co-researcher and cousin-in-law Alan Cope shared with me speaks volumes about this subject. The letter was written was written on December 3rd, 1922 by William (Willie) John Duncan Hadden Gordon (my first cousin, three times removed) to his sister and brother (who I believe were living in the United States at the time).
“My Dear Sister and Brother,
Just a few lines to say that we have lost our 2 dear children Willie and Nan. Willie died at 7:15 last night and our wee Nan died at 10:50 p.m. in the hospital. She died 1 hour after getting there. Willie died with bronco pneumonia and I think Nan had the same but I won’t know until tomorrow. They will lie side by side in the Liberton Cemetery. Be thankful dears for this is an awful blow to us but God has called them to His Skies. They were running around this day week. Now Dear Sister and Brother I come to ask a favour of you if its in your power. Mother and Father will do what they can but Dad is pretty quiet just now. So now dears I can’t say any more just now and I trust this finds you all well.
I will write Don [another brother] tonight also, so night night dears.
Your loving Brother, Willie”
Seeing an image of the original letter, the pain and despair seems to fill every word. This offers another example of the difficult times, even if its not that long ago, that our ancestors faced. Perhaps now I understand why to my grandparents catching a cold could “be the death of you.”