Preface: As we shelter-in-place to weather the spread of Covid-19, I was reminded of our family’s tragic history with a different type of outbreak, back in the 1920s. Your first thought might be the Spanish Flu, but that pandemic had largely passed by the time this happened.
This morning I had a conversation with my mom and my Aunt Dee about their Aunt Mamie, who died before either of them was born. The story that was passed down to them is that Aunt Mamie’s husband William had died from an illness that was passing through that region of South Georgia, in the summer of 1921.
Several years later Aunt Mamie pulled an old rug out of storage and took it outside and beat the dust out of it before setting it up in their front room. The rug had previously been in the old house that her husband William had died in. Not long after, Mamie took ill and died from the same illness in November of 1924 – more than 3 years after her husband.
Using the resources on Ancestry.com I found scans of their Georgia death certificates showing the cause of death for both William and Mamie was Typhoid Fever – and right there on Mamie’s death certificate was my Grandmother’s name, listed as the person reporting the death of her own sister.
From what I have read about typhoid, it is most often spread through contaminated water or from person to person contact, HOWEVER Tyhpus, which causes a “typhoid” fever, can be spread via the body louse or the fecal matter of that louse.
Mamie must have breathed in some infected material when she was beating that old rug.
I have yet to learn who took in the surviving children, but did meet one of the daughters, Maude, when she began attending our family reunions back in the early 2000s. Maude has since passed, so I can’t reach out to her for details.