This weeks prompt is “misfortune” and a family curse rears its head again.
If you are hunting for records in England from across the pond, the website of the General Register Office may be of help. You can get a printed birth or death certificate mailed to you for a fee, and for a minimum of nine months after October 2017, you can take advantage of a trial program to order a PDF of the record instead, which you can download yourself. The fee for a printed certificate is 9.25 pounds and for a PDF is 6 pounds. You will need the surname, gender, and approximate birth or death date of your ancestor to search their their records, but you cannot see the form itself until after you have purchased and received it. I have had some success searching Find My Past and/or the FreeBMD to confirm the district name and volume and page numbers to filter the results.
The earliest official record I have found so far for my 2nd great-grandfather Henry Charles Thomas is the birth certificate for his daughter and my great-grandmother Emily Thomas. It lists his full name plus his occupation of musician.
Henry also appears with his wife and daughter Emily in the 1881 Census. In this document, his occupation is given as “General Laborer,” his year of birth as 1855, and place of birth as Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. I have not been able to find his birth certificate yet using those parameters. The family was boarding with a woman described as a “war widow” in Canterbury, County Kent, England.
In the 1891 census, wife Minnie Ellen is no longer recorded as living with Henry, but is now the wife of Mark Bailey. There are three daughters in the household with the last name Thomas and one son with the last name Bailey. For a while, my imagination filled in the blanks with all kinds of stories, including one of Henry leaving his family behind to go on the road as a musician. Then I found his death certificate.
In May of 1884 at the reported age of 31, Henry Thomas died of something called Phthisis, which he had had for three years, and paraplegia, which he had suffered for three months. Phthisis is an old name for what we now call tuberculosis. In some cases, the infection spreads from the lungs and attacks the spine, causing paralysis. In 1882 the cause of tuberculosis, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, was discovered. I don’t know how long before that knowledge influenced treatment of the disease in England, but Henry did not appear to pass the disease on to any other family members.