52 Ancestors: Emily Eliza Thomas #43

This week’s 52 Ancestors theme is “Cause of death.” It took me a while to come up with an idea for this week, then I remembered that this year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the Spanish flu pandemic.

My great-grandmother Emily Thomas was born in Canterbury, England in 1879 to Henry Thomas and Minnie Ellen Lampon. Henry died when Emily was about five years old and her mother soon remarried to a Mark Bailey. She had two sisters, Elizabeth and Edith, and four step-siblings, Frank, Agnes, Nora and Minnie.

In 1908 she married my great-grandfather Bertrand Avenell and only a year later moved first to Canada and then to Houston, Texas in the United States with him. They had four children, Roland, Joan (my grandmother), Norman and Marjorie.

Emily Thomas Avenell

Emily Thomas Avenell with baby Joan and Roland.

Spanish influenza first appeared in the United States January 1918 and a more virulent strain appeared in August that same year. In September of 1918, Camp Logan, the army training camp closest to Houston, reported between 600 to 700 cases of Spanish influenza. Camp officials played down the threat to Houston residents. In the October 5th edition of the Houston Chronicle, city medical officers told the public not to be alarmed, while elsewhere in the paper it was reported that the mayor was ill along with court house employees and policemen. On October 9, City Council shut down all public gatherings. It was too late for Emily; she died October 10 at 39 years of age.

Sources:

J. R. Gonzales, “Spanish Flu in Houston (Part 1),” Bayou City History (https://blog.chron.com/bayoucityhistory/2009/05/spanish-flu-in-houston-part-1/ : accessed 30 Oct 2018).

J. R. Gonzales, “Spanish Flu in Houston (Part 2),” Bayou City History (https://blog.chron.com/bayoucityhistory/2009/05/spanish-flu-in-houston-part-2/ : accessed 30 Oct 2018).

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