Thursday, May 7, 2015

Genealogy Talk and Vital Records

I am getting ready to give a talk at the Bethlehem Public Library about genealogy and vital records held by the Town of Bethlehem.*  It is a Powerpoint, so I was looking for illustrations and I took this quick photo.  

And then got totally distracted.

The picture here is from book #2 of the Register of Vital Records. Births, marriages and deaths are recorded  The pages in this book are an intriguing look into the everyday lives of Bethlehem people. The death register is especially poignant.

This particular page is the first one of the death section  with 35 records from June 15, 1894 through October 26, 1894.  35 records sounds so impersonal - it is really 35 people.

The youngest is Chester A. Glasser age 3 months and 24 days who died July 27 from "cholera (infantum)"; the oldest is Charles Hungerford, age 88, who died October 26 from cystitis (senile debility)"

What really caught my eye were the drownings - four of them on this single page.  A truly intriguing story emerges when one reads the four listings.  With of course more questions than answers.

On June 3 we have Henry Ling age 46 years, 10 months.  He is married and a mason.  Born in Germany, he has lived in the U.S. for 26 years. There is no father's or mother's name but both are indicated has having been born in Germany.  Place of death: Kenwood Creek. Cause; Submersion.

Next on August 4 is simply "unknown" a "Negro". Place of death: "found in Island Creek." Cause: apnoea** (submersion).  Note; Reflecting mores of 1894, the form asks for "Race if other than White."

Then on September 17 is Christopher Mulson - or is it Neilson - the name is hard to read. He is 26, single and a laborer.  He was born in Norway.  No parents are listed.  Place of death: Van Wies Point. Cause: Apnoea (submersion.)

And finally another "unknown" with no specific date but listed between October 23 and October 16.  Age is listed as 30, "Don't know" is the answer for occupation and "Supposed to be German" for birthplace. Place of death: Hudson River. Cause: Apnoea (submersion.)

Aren't you curious now to know the story of these four people?  To me, the two unknowns are especially poignant. I don't even know if they are male or female.  How did any of them end up in the river?  The questions go on and on.

* The talk is Tuesday May 12, 7 pm at the Bethlehem Public Library.  Librarian Frank Somers and I are going to share resources for local Bethlehem genealogy research. Free and open to the public.

** The term "apnoea" is used three times with this spelling.  Apnea is what we would recognize today "a suspension of breathing" - altho says it is a temporary suspension. In this usage the suspension was decidedly permanent.

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