Causes of Death

Eliza Bower's Tombstone

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks topic this week is Cause of Death. “Death is one of the certainties of life. Let’s explore causes of death this week. Do you have a relative who died in an unusual way? Perhaps you’ve found an unusual record that shows the cause of death. (One that comes to mind is a tombstone in a nearby cemetery that states that the deceased died of consumption. You don’t usually find a cause of death on a tombstone.)”

The one unusual cause of death I found was stab wounds to the chest.  I have already written about my ancestor who was killed by his neighbor so I didn’t want to do that again.  The rest of the causes of death were mostly ordinary.  I did a spread sheet of the causes of death and I did find a pattern in some illnesses among my ancestors.  There seemed to be a lot of Cancer among my ancestors. There were a couple of cases of lung cancer, along with prostate, bladder, pancreas, and  gallbladder cancer.  I also found several cases of Nephritis.  My father always said kidney problems ran in the his family. One ancestors died in the flu epidemic of 1918 -19.  Another one died young of Appendicitis.  She was operated on in 1898 but still ended up passing away.  I can’t help but wonder if today’s medicine would have saved either one. Below I listed all the causes of death among my ancestors that I could find along with a definition of them.  


Acidosis and dehydration  — an excessively acid condition of the body fluids or tissues and body does not have enough fluids
Acute Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura  —  is a blood disorder characterized by an abnormal decrease in the number of platelets in the blood. Platelets are cells in the blood that help stop bleeding. A decrease in platelets can result in easy bruising, bleeding gums and internal bleeding.
Appendicitis — is a medical emergency that almost always requires prompt surgery to remove the appendix. Left untreated, an inflamed appendix will eventually burst, or perforate, spilling infectious materials into the abdominal cavity.
Carcinoma of Gallbladder — Your gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ on the right side of your abdomen, just beneath your liver. The gallbladder stores bile, a digestive fluid produced by your liver. Gallbladder cancer is uncommon. … But most gallbladder cancers are discovered at a late stage, when the prognosis is often very poor.
Carcinoma of the Pancreas metastases to liver and bone — is a disease in which malignant (cancerous) cells form in the tissues of the pancreas. The pancreas is a gland located behind the stomach and in front of the spine. The pancreas produces digestive juices and hormones that regulate blood sugar. Carcinoma of the pancreas can often first spread within the abdomen (belly) and to the liver. They can also spread to the lungs, bone, brain, and other organs.
Carcinoma of the Prostate and Urinary Bladder — Prostate cancer, an adenocarcinoma, is the second most common cause of cancer deaths among men, as well as the most common solid tumor in men, overall. The most common areas for prostate cancer to spread are your bladder, rectum, and bones. It can also spread to your lymph nodes, liver, lungs, and other body tissues.
Carcinoma Pulmonary and metastases to ribs, liver, and bone  —  Metastatic lung cancer may spread to the bones, brain, or liver. … of the liver may be sickness, reduced appetite, and pain under the right ribs.
Cerebral Hemorrhage and Paralysis — Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) is when blood suddenly bursts into brain tissue, causing damage to your brain. Symptoms usually appear suddenly during ICH. They include headache, weakness, confusion, and paralysis, particularly on one side of your body. … This can quickly cause brain and nerve damage.
Chronic Gastroenteritis — Gastritis is an inflammation of the stomach lining. Weaknesses or injury to the mucus-lined barrier that protects your stomach wall allows your digestive juices to damage and inflame your stomach lining. A number of diseases and conditions can increase your risk of gastritis, including Crohn’s disease and sarcoidosis, a condition in which collections of inflammatory cells grow in the body.
Chronic Interstitial Nephritis and Hypertension — Left untreated, gastritis may lead to stomach ulcers and stomach bleeding. Rarely, some forms of chronic gastritis may increase your risk of stomach cancer, especially if you have extensive thinning of the stomach lining and changes in the lining’s cells
Chronic Myocarditis and Arteriosclerosis Myocarditis is a disease marked by inflammation and damage of the heart muscle. … There are many causes of myocarditis, including viral infections, autoimmune diseases, environmental toxins, and adverse reactions to medications. The prognosis is variable but chronic heart failure is the major long term complication.  Arteriosclerosis is the thickening and hardening of the walls of the arteries, occurring typically in old age.
Chronic Parenchymatous Nephritis —  is ordinarily applied to a variety of renal diseases which pathologically may be widely different in character. Thus cases of chronic diffuse nephritis, of amyloid kidney and of chronic nephrosis are grouped under a single heading.
Eclampsia and Pregnancy — Eclampsia is a severe complication of preeclampsia. It’s a rare but serious condition where high blood pressure results in seizures during pregnancy. Seizures are periods of disturbed brain activity that can cause episodes of staring, decreased alertness, and convulsions (violent shaking). Eclampsia affects about 1 in every 200 women with preeclampsia. You can develop eclampsia even if you don’t have a history of seizures.
Influenza, Bronchial Pneumonia  — Influenza is a common cause of pneumonia, especially among younger children, the elderly, pregnant women, or those with certain chronic health conditions or who live in a nursing home. Most cases of flu never lead to pneumonia, but those that do tend to be more severe and deadly. In fact, flu and pneumonia were the eighth leading cause of death in the United States in 2015.
Myocarditis and Chronic Interstitial Nephritis  — Myocarditis is a disease marked by inflammation and damage of the heart muscle. … There are many causes of myocarditis, including viral infections, autoimmune diseases, environmental toxins, and adverse reactions to medications. The prognosis is variable but chronic heart failure is the major long term complication.  Interstitial nephritis is a form of nephritis affecting the interstitium of the kidneys surrounding the tubules, i.e., is inflammation of the spaces between renal tubules. This disease can be either acute, meaning it occurs suddenly, or chronic, meaning it is ongoing and eventually ends in kidney failure.
Pulmonary Edema, Coronary thrombosis, Heart Disease  — Pulmonary edema is a condition caused by excess fluid in the lungs. This fluid collects in the numerous air sacs in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. In most cases, heart problems cause pulmonary edema.  Coronary thrombosis a blockage of the flow of blood to the heart, caused by a blood clot in a coronary artery.
*Pulmonary Tuberculosis — is caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M tuberculosis). … This means the bacteria is easily spread from an infected person to someone else. You can get TB by breathing in air droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person. The resulting lung infection is called primary.
* Two ancestors died of Pulmonary Tuberculosis
Squamous cell carcinoma of the lung  — Squamous cell lung cancer, or squamous cell carcinoma of the lung, is one type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It is also called epidermoid carcinoma. This type of lung cancer begins in the squamous cells—thin, flat cells that look like fish scales when seen under a microscope.
Subarachnoid Hemorrhage increased intracranial pressure — Subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is a life-threatening type of stroke caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. SAH can be caused by a ruptured aneurysm, AVM, or head injury. One-third of patients will survive with good recovery; one-third will survive with a disability; and one-third will die.
Uremia and Chronic interstitial nephritisUremia is a serious condition and, if untreated, can be life-threateningUremia is a major symptom of renal failure. Uremia is also a sign of the last stages of chronic kidney disease.  Interstitial nephritis is a form of nephritis affecting the interstitium of the kidneys surrounding the tubules, i.e., is inflammation of the spaces between renal tubules. This disease can be either acute, meaning it occurs suddenly, or chronic, meaning it is ongoing and eventually ends in kidney failure

Copyright © 2018 Gail Grunst

Honoring Ancestors who died too young: Ruth Kaiser

Ruth is not exactly an ancestor of mine, but I have heard about Ruth since I was a little girl.  Ruth was my grandfather’s first wife.  He was married to her a little over a year when she died.

Ruth was born Ruth Muzzey on September 5, 1898 in DeKalb, DeKalb, Illinois.  She married Fred Kaiser on October 28, 1920 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois.  She died November 8, 1921.  According to her death certificate she died of Eclampsia (seizures and coma that happen during pregnancy but are not due to pre-existing or organic brain disorders), pregnancy and uremic coma.  Secondary condition was Pyebitis Pyonephrosis.

I had to look these medical terms up to understand what exactly happened.  From what I can deduce is that she had a pre-existing kidney condition before becoming pregnant.  According to her death certificate the doctor treated her for Pyebitis Pyonephrosis (a kidney condition) for 11 months and 20 days.  I remember my grandmother saying that Ruth was told that she should not get pregnant, but she did and it caused her death.  The death certificate also states that the doctor treated her for the Eclampsia and pregnancy from September 1 though November 8, 1921.  A Cesarean Section was preformed prior to death.  It does not say how far along she was in her pregnancy.

Once again, I felt for my grandfather.  In April of 1919 he lost his brother to Influenza, then 2 ½ years later he loses his wife and child.  It seems like more than one could bear.

Then I wondered about Ruth’s family, her parents, brothers and sisters.  I never heard anything about Ruth’s family of origin.  What I did hear about Ruth came from my grandmother, not my grandfather.  I never heard my grandfather talk about Ruth.  My grandmother was a Ruth’s friend so she is the one that kept Ruth’s memory alive.  But I could not remember Grandma saying anything about Ruth’s family.  Maybe she did, but back then it really didn’t mean anything to me.  Even after starting genealogy, I just ignored her until recently because she was not a blood relative.

I had to find her on the censuses to get a glimpse into her life. I also found her family tree on Ancestry.  It looks like she was the youngest of seven children.  She was 10 years younger than her next closest sibling.    Her father and one brother preceded Ruth in death.  Ruth’s mother and other siblings died after Ruth. The last of her siblings died in 1966.  I wonder if they were close to her and what their thoughts were when she died.  Apparently, they did not keep in touch with my grandfather.  I think I would have heard if he were in touch with Ruth’s family.  Too bad I was too young at the time to ask the right questions.

Another thing that struck me in researching her life was that there was a cesarean section done.  What happened to the baby?  There was never any mention of the baby.  I assumed it died too.  That started me thinking that there should be a birth and/or death record.  I was able to find a death record on Familysearch.  It was just an index entry, they did not have a picture of the original.  However, I did get some information from the index. Here is the information from the index.

Name:  Kaiser; Death Date:  8 November 1921; Gender: Male; Birth Date: 8 November 1921;  Birth Place:  Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Father: Fred Kaiser; Father’s Birth Place:  Chicago, IL; Mother: Ruth Muzzey; Mother’s Birth Place: IL.

I wonder if the baby was near full-term or born premature.  If premature, how premature was it?  Apparently, the baby was never given a first name.  What happened to the baby?  Was he buried? Cremated?  I know he is not buried near his mother because I have been to Ruth’s grave.  She is buried on one side of my grandfather, and my grandmother is buried on the other side of my grandfather. Also buried there are my grandfather’s parents, his brother, and my mother and father.

Did Grandpa think of Ruth on their wedding anniversary (October 28) or on the anniversary of her death (November 8) and the birth & death of his son?  I will never know, but I would hope that he did think of them on those days. How sad to think not only of Ruth’s early death, but the death of her baby too.  Two lives that ended too soon.  So in honoring Ruth’s life, I am also honoring that of her baby boy too.