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Epidemics

Anyone who has been researching their family history for awhile will start to notice that many family members died within close approximation to one another. There were alot of contributing factors in early pioneers deaths - namely old age (which is rather young age by our standards!), disease (food poisoning was rampant, cholera, diptheria, typhus, etc.), wounds (even the smallest cut could turn and cause death), as well as work and farm related accidents.

However, during some periods on our counties history there seem to be more deaths occurring than at other times. This would lead one to believe that there may be some coorelation between these deaths and the years in which they occur.

Sept-Oct, 1997, Newsletter - Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County

Source: Ancestors West, SSBCGS, Vol 20, No l, Fall 1993, South Bend (IN) Area Genealogical Society

"In case you ever wondered why a large number of your ancestors disappeared during a certain period in history, this might help."

Epidemics have always had a great influence on people - and thus influencing, as well, the genealogists trying to trace them. Many cases of people disappearing from records can be traced to dying during an epidemic or moving away from the affected area. Some of the major epidemics in the United States are listed below:

  • 1657 - Boston -- Measles
  • 1687 - Boston -- Measles
  • 1690 - New York --Yellow Fever
  • 1713 - Boston -- Measles
  • 1729 - Boston -- Measles
  • 1732-3 - Worldwide -- Influenza
  • 1738 - South Carolina -- Smallpox
  • 1739-40 - Boston -- Measles
  • 1747 - CT,NY,PA,SC -- Measles
  • 1759 - North America [areas inhabited by white people] -- Measles
  • 1761 - North America and West Indies -- Influenza
  • 1772 - North America -- Measles
  • 1775 - North America [especially hard in Northeast] epidemic -- Unknown
  • 1775-6 - Worldwide [one of the worst epidemics] -- Influenza
  • 1783 - Dover, DE ["extremely fatal"] -- Bilious Disorder
  • 1784 - New Bern, NC (Craven Co) -- Yellow Fever
  • 1788 - Philadelphia and New York -- Measles
  • 1793 - Vermont [a "putrid" fever] and -- Influenza
  • 1793 - Virginia [killed 500 in 5 counties in 4 weeks] -- Influenza
  • 1793 - Philadelphia [one of the worst epidemics] -- Yellow Fever
  • 1793 - Harrisburg, PA [many unexplained deaths] -- Unknown
  • 1793 - Middletown, PA [many mysterious deaths] -- Unknown
  • 1794 - Philadelphia, PA -- Yellow Fever
  • 1796-7 - Philadelphia, PA -- Yellow Fever
  • 1798 - Philadelphia, PA [one of the worst] -- Yellow Fever
  • 1798 - New Bern, NC (Craven Co) -- Yellow Fever
  • 1803 - New York -- Yellow Fever
  • 1820-3 - Nationwide [starts-Schuylkill River and spreads] -- "Fever"
  • 1831-2 - Nationwide [brought by English emigrants] -- Asiatic Cholera
  • 1832 - New York City and other major cities -- Cholera
  • 1837 - Philadelphia -- Typhus
  • 1841 - Nationwide [especially severe in the south] -- Yellow Fever
  • 1847 - New Orleans -- Yellow Fever
  • 1847-8 - Worldwide -- Influenza
  • 1848-9 - North America -- Cholera
  • 1850 - Nationwide -- Yellow Fever
  • 1850-1 - North America -- Influenza
  • 1852 - Nationwide [New Orleans-8,000 die in summer] -- Yellow Fever
  • 1855 - Nationwide [many parts] -- Yellow Fever
  • 1857-9 - Worldwide [one of the greated epidemics] -- Influenza
  • 1860-1 - Pennsylvania -- Smallpox
  • 1865-73 - Philadelphia, New York, Boston, New Orleans -- Smallpox
  • 1865-73 - Baltimore, Memphis, Washington DC -- Cholera
    • [A series of recurring epidemics of: Typhus, Typhoid, Scarlet Fever, Yellow Fever]
  • 1873-5 - North America and Europe -- Influenza
  • 1878 - New Orleans [last great epidemic] -- Yellow Fever
  • 1885 - Plymouth, PA -- Typhoid
  • 1886 - Jacksonville, FL -- Yellow Fever
  • 1918 - Worldwide [high point year] -- Influenza
    • More people were hospitalized in WWI from this epidemic than wounds. US Army training camps became death camps, with 80% death rate in some camps

Finally, these specific instances of Cholera were mentioned:

  • 1833 Columbus, OH
  • 1834 New York City
  • 1849 New York
  • 1851 Coles Co., Illinois, The Great Plains, and Missouri



County Specific Deaths

If you have family that died during one period in time and think they may have contracted a disease that was widespread, please email me brief details and I will add them here.

  • 1863 - Reported Diptheria Epidemic (Solomon Gary family lost 6 children to this disease).

 

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Last Revised: March 28, 2008

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