View Full Version : Cause of death - coincidence or related:

Elizabeth Herts
14-08-09, 10:16
I have been piecing together the tragic life of my 3xgreat grandfather, Charles Alexander.

He married 4 times. 3 of his wives predeceased him and I think the 4th might have left!

I have just received the death certificates for his first wife and one of his children:

19th January 1850 56 Brunswick Street Heywood
Lavinia Alexander 34 years Wife of Charles Alexander Joiner
Cause of death: Peritonitis 1 week Certified
Informant: Charles Alexander Present at the death 56 Brunswick Street Heywood

19th January 1850 56 Brunswick Street Heywood
Walter Alexander aged 6 months Son of Charles Alexander Joiner
COD: Convulsions 2 days
Informant: Charles Alexander Present at Death

They both died on the same day.
Do you think their deaths are unrelated, or do you think that Lavinia's peritonitis and Walter's convulsions were caused by the same thing?

14-08-09, 10:22
It's possible they both had the same underlying cause, such as an infection, but I don't think there's any way of finding out unless perhaps there were inquests?

Elizabeth Herts
14-08-09, 10:39
I don't think I shall ever know.

In 1828 Charles' eldest brother died.
In 1840 his father and younger brother Owen died aged 10.
In 1843 he married Lavinia, herself a widow who had lost two young children.
In 1845 his sister Sabina died aged 16.
In 1846 his daughter Martha Hannah is born - thankfully she survives.
In 1847 his sister Mary Ann dies aged 22.
1849 Walter is born
1850 Lavinia and Walter died in January
1850 Charles marries for the 2nd time to Mary Porritt - my 3xgt grandmother
1851 Joseph (my 2x gt grandfather born)
1853 Samuel born
1855 June Charles' younger brother George dies aged 21 Charles is the informant Now only he and 2 sisters survive from 8 children
1855 August Mary Alexander dies leaving two little boys
1856 Charles marries for the 3rd time to Mary Ann Jackson
1860 Mary Ann Alexander dies 28th December
1861 Charles marries for the 4th time - to Ann Sylvester - 18th March

1861 Charles, Ann (new wife), Joseph and Samuel and Martha Hannah appear on census
1871 No sign of any wife!
1881 Charles dies aged 57 from cirrhosis of the liver.

Very sad. At first I wasn't over-sympathetic but as I pieced together his life as a young man I felt very sorry for him. After his father died in 1840 he was the head of the family (except for his mother) and a lot of the responsibilities fell on him. I think he and Lavinia lost another child but I don't have the certificates to confirm this yet.

14-08-09, 10:47
Very sad indeed. I feel sorry for him too. That poor family.

Little Nell
14-08-09, 12:30
Peritonitis is common after appendicitis - but probably other illnesses too.

The fact they died on the same day could be coincidence. Convulsions are caused by very high temperature.

In fact peritonitis and convulsions are both caused by other things and nowadays the underlying conditions would be listed on a death cert.

As a matter of information, I went through a few years of burials in a London parish register in the early part of 19th century and all the adult deaths were ascribed to consumption and all the infant deaths to convulsions.

My gt x 2 grandfather had 15 children, with 3 different wives. 5 of them died and I got some of the death certs to see if it was a genetic cause, but they were all different unrelated illnesses, though curiously instead of dying in infancy, 4 of them died in early adulthood.

Elizabeth Herts
14-08-09, 12:36
Nell, it's so heart-breaking to see all those young lives wasted. Nowadays we are so lucky to have antibiotics, even if they do have their drawbacks.

My younger daughter used to become very unwell with tonsilitis and it was only when antibiotics were administered that she started recovering. My older daughter used to get ear infections which made her very poorly too. When my OH was a baby he was hospitalised with Mastoiditis, which can be fatal if untreated.

Some of my families seem to lose a lot of children and young adults while others survived relatively unscathed. It wasn't necessarily a class-related outcome, either.

14-08-09, 12:40
In fact peritonitis and convulsions are both caused by other things and nowadays the underlying conditions would be listed on a death cert.

Peritonitis can be caused by infection, and infection can cause fever. Fever is a possible cause of convulsions, so it is possible the peritonitis and the convulsions were caused by the same underlying infection. But there are many causes of both peritonitis and convulsions, so the deaths on the same day may be just a coincidence. But there is no way of knowing either way.

Mary from Italy
14-08-09, 13:00
Possibly the wife died of peritonitis caused by appendicitis, and the child died because she was no longer able to breastfeed? Not sure if starvation would cause convulsions, though.

Equally, the child could have died from an infection passed through her milk.