thegenealogygirl

52 Ancestors – Mary Brown Wood, Part 2 – So Much Death

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A few weeks ago I wrote about my cousin Mary Brown.  She had missing babies.  I can’t ignore missing babies.  I dug and dug and in the end, I found that she had four children who died as infants.  It felt so good to find them and add them to my tree with the details of their short but precious lives.

At one point in my post I wrote:

“Oh, Mary.

How many more babies did you lose?”

That was when I had found three and knew there was still at least one missing.  Four babies lost feels like an overwhelming amount of sorrow for one mother.

I noted that there was more work to do on Mary’s family.  I just didn’t expect that I would write another post about my cousin Mary.  I certainly wasn’t planning on it.

But last week, something kept nagging at me to look at Mary’s family some more.  A few hours in, I was unbelievably heartbroken.  For two days, I dug and scratched, and felt sick to my stomach.  I created a timeline for the entire family and felt even more distressed.

Mary’s story is one of the saddest I have ever uncovered.

 

Her first taste of death.

 

When Mary was just a few months shy of her eleventh birthday, her only older sibling, Andrew Brown, died.  His cause of death was 1 – strumous abscess, 2 – phthisis.  In other words, he died of a cold that originated from tuberculosis, and tuberculosis.1

I am sure that was terribly sad for Mary.  But, she had nine other siblings, both of her parents were alive, and I imagine that life probably moved along okay after some grieving.

 

Mary & William

 

A little more than twelve years later, Mary Brown and William Wood were married.2  Forty-three days later, their first child, Alexander Wood was born, 17 March 1894.3

living child count: 1

Just a few weeks before his first birthday, Alexander died of acute pneumonia.4

living child count: 0

Mary was already expecting her second child when Alexander was buried.  That child, William Wood was born 31 October 1895.5

living child count: 1

A little more than two years later, John Wood was born 20 November 1897.6

living child count: 2

Fifteen months after John’s birth, Mary would say goodbye to her own mother, Janet Lorimer Fulton.  Janet succumbed to uterine cancer after a two year battle on 16 February 1899.7  She was just 48 years old.  Mary was only a few months past her twenty-eighth birthday.

But Mary was about to enter a period of her life that included a presumably welcome respite from loss.  Her next five children would be born without the sorrow of death touching their young family.  First, Hugh Brown Wood in 1900.8  Then Annie Wood in 1902.9  David Wood in 1904.10  Edward Brown Wood in 1907.11  And Alexander Wood in 1910.12

living child count: 7

Alexander only lived for twenty days.  6 May 1910, Alexander Wood died of infantile debility.13  In our day, we call this failure to thrive.  Alexander was not able to absorb nutrition from his food.

living child count: 6

Mary went on to give birth to her second known daughter, Janet Brown Wood, 19 June 1911.14

living child count: 7

At eighteen months of age, Janet died on Christmas Eve 1912 of capillary bronchitis and cardiac failure.15  My marvelous middle boy contracted RSV as an infant.  It was so painful to watch him struggle to breathe.  But I had the wonders of modern medicine to assist me in keeping him breathing.  Mary had to hold her baby, watch her struggle for every breath and see her die in her arms.  At least, that is how I imagine it happening.  Such a heartbreaking picture.

living child count: 6

Eight months later, on 29 August 1913, Mary Wood was born.16

living child count: 7

Mary would only live for seven months.  4 January 1915, Mary died of meningitis.17

living child count: 6

Eight months later another daughter, also named Mary, was born 18 September 1915.18

living child count: 7

Seven short days after Mary’s birth, William Wood, William & Mary’s second born child, perished in the Battle of Loos just before his twentieth birthday on 25 September 1915.19

living child count: 6

Almost two years after William’s death, John Wood, third-born child, was married 8 August 1917.20  I hope the thought of future grandchildren cheered Mary’s heart.

At least for a minute.  Sadly, those grandchildren did not manifest.  John’s wife Ellison went on to marry again on 25 November 1921.21  She was listed as a widow on the marriage record.  Despite extensive efforts to find John’s death record, so far, that record has not been located.  I wonder if he may have decided to join the war efforts after his marriage and perished like his brother.  There are plenty of WWI death records that could be him, but they sadly lack enough detail to be certain.

living child count: 5

A little more than a month after Ellison’s remarriage, Hugh Brown Wood & Martha Blair Dean Boyd were married 31 December 1921.22

Sometime during 1922, Hugh & Martha gave Mary her first grandchild, Agnes Blair Boyd Wood.23

living child count: 5

living grandchild count: 1

 

The beginning of the end

 

The following year, on 22 November 1923,24 Annie Wood lost her life at the age of 21 in the Fever Hospital of Bannockburn.25  Her cause of death?  Phthisis pulmonalis.  Today we would call that pulmonary tuberculosis.  I wonder if Annie’s death reminded Mary of her older brother’s death?  They would have been so similar.

living child count: 4

living grandchild count: 1

Sometime after Annie’s death, Hugh & Martha would have a child named William.  He would later serve as the informant on his own father’s death record,26 but his birth falls in the period where records are not publicly available to view.  I’m hoping his birth brought some joy for Mary.

living child count: 4

living grandchild count: 2

That joy would be interrupted when Edward Brown Wood, just seventeen years old, died in Ochil Hills Sanatorium after a two year battle with pulmonary tuberculosis on 15 February 1925.27

living child count: 3

living grandchild count: 2

For nearly six years, Mary would enjoy another respite from loss.  Until on 14 December 1930, David, at the age of twenty-six, would die of phthisis pulmonalis at home.28  Another death caused by tuberculosis.  If you are counting, this one makes four – three children, one sibling.

living child count: 2

living grandchild count: 2

In early May of 1934, Mary’s youngest daughter would give birth to an illegitimate son named Hugh Brown Wood.

living child count: 2

living grandchild count: 3

Hugh would live for two short weeks before dying of: 1 – prematurity, 2 – congenital debility, and worst of all 3 – pemphigus, on 17 May 1934 at the Royal Infirmary in Stirling.29  Pemphigus is a horrible disease where watery blisters form on the skin.

living child count: 2

living grandchild count: 2

A mere twelve days after the horrors of Hugh’s death, his mother, Mary Wood, youngest child of William & Mary, would also die of phthisis – or tuberculosis – in the home of her parents at the age of 18 on 29 May 1934.30

living child count: 1

living grandchild count: 2

Five deaths to tuberculosis, four of them Mary’s children, one a brother.  Four infant deaths.  One death in battle.  And one unknown cause of death.  At least eleven children were born to Mary Brown & William Wood.  Mary & William would lose ten – TEN! – of those children during their lifetimes.  Only two of their children would marry.  They would have only three known grandchildren.  I feel so numb when I consider the sheer number of deaths Mary experienced.  Horrible, painful deaths.

There would again be a rest from death for a time.  There would even be a few bright spots in Mary’s family despite the fact that WWII was raging.  24 April 1942, Mary’s granddaughter Agnes Blair Boyd Wood & Andrew Wilson were married very near Mary’s home.31  Two years later, Agnes & Andrew would welcome their first child, a girl.  A girl who is now an older woman.  A LIVING, older woman.

living child count: 1

living grandchild count: 2

living great-grandchild count: 1

 

One last death

 

Four years later, Mary would lose her husband of fifty-four years, William Wood, on 31 July 1948.32  His cause of death was listed as “senile changes”.  Merciful?  Possibly.

Mary Brown would live for nearly seven years without her husband.  Seven years with only ONE of her eleven children.  But seven years with the hope of a future for her posterity as those 3 precious grand, and great-grandchildren continued to LIVE.

1955 began in sorrow for Hugh Brown Wood as his mother Mary died on 1 January in his home.33  Just like her husband William, Mary’s cause of death is listed as “senile changes”.  Merciful?  I hope so.  I would not normally feel peace about the indignity of death to Alzheimers/dementia, but in Mary’s case, I hope she was transported back to that decade of joy when her family only grew and she had 7 children living.  I hope that on her bad days, Hugh & Martha never reminded her of the tragedies she experienced over and over and over again.  I hope they let her live blissfully in any happy memories she found in those last days.

A little more than two years after Mary’s death, her only child to outlive her, Hugh, would die of coronary thrombosis on 11 April 1957.34  I am so glad for Mary’s sake, that Hugh’s heart held out until after Mary had passed.

 

Grappling to understand

 

How did one woman survive so much loss?

I cannot begin to imagine what that was like.

I feel raw.  The realization of the sorrows of Mary’s life is new for me.  Her pain ended more than 62 years ago, but I discovered one horrifying record after another in very quick succession.  Every part of me aches for Mary.  I will probably ache for a while.  But I imagine she made peace with it all either near the end of her life or in her joyous – and LARGE – reunion after her death.

I don’t want Mary to feel even a moment more of the pains of her life, but I hope that she knows I am feeling pain for her suffering.  I hope she knows that I discovered not only her missing babies, but also the immense sorrow of her many, many losses.  I don’t know what it feels like to be in Heaven, but if my telling of her story brings anything to her today – I hope it is a sense of being loved, understood, honored, respected, and revered.

Mary now holds a very special place in my heart.  I will carry her with me for all of my days.

 

My very dear cousin Mary, I hope you are experiencing peace and joy you could never have anticipated during your painful journey through mortality.

 

 

 

note: It is possible that William and Mary had additional children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  They have been carefully searched for and not found.  Grandchildren and great-grandchildren are more difficult to identify without the help of living descendants.  If you are a descendant of Mary, I welcome your input and contact – amberlysfamilyhistory {@} yahoo {dot} com.

 

 


  1. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 14 July 2009), death entry for Andrew Brown, 25 September 1881, Hamilton in Lanark; citing Statutory Registers no. 647/00 0351. 
  2. Scotland, “Statutory Marriages 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 7 January 2018), marriage entry for William Wood and Mary Brown, 1894, Bothwell in Lanark; citing Statutory Registers no. 625/1 4. 
  3. Scotland, “Statutory Births 1855-2017, ” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 7 January 2018), birth entry for Alexander Wood, 1894, Bothwell in Lanark; citing Statutory Registers no. 625/1 90. 
  4. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 7 January 2019), death entry for Alexander Wood, 1895, Bothwell in Lanark; citing Statutory Registers no. 625/1 41. 
  5. Scotland, “Statutory Births 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), birth entry for William Wood, 31 October 1895, Bothwell in Lanark; citing Statutory Registers no. 625/1 393. 
  6. Scotland, “Statutory Births 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), birth entry for John Wood, 20 November 1897, Cowie near Bannockburn in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/02 0151. 
  7. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 14 July 2009), death entry for Janet Brown, 16 February 1899, Bothwell in Lanark; citing Statutory Registers no. 625/01 0050. 
  8. Scotland, “Statutory Births 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), birth entry for Hugh Brown Wood, 14 July 1900, Cowie, near Bannockburn in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/2 114. 
  9. Scotland, “Statutory Births 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 8 January 2018), birth entry for Annie Wood, 1 September 1902, Cowie in Bannockburn in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/2 171. 
  10. Scotland, “Statutory Births 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 30 January 2018), birth entry for David Wood, 27 October 1904, Cowie near Bannockburn in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/2 219. 
  11. Scotland, “Statutory Births 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), birth entry for Edward Brown Wood, 20 September 1907, Cowie, near Bannockburn in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/2 285. 
  12. Scotland, “Statutory Births 1855-2017, ” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed 7 January 2018), birth entry for Alexander Wood, 1910, St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 134. 
  13. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 7 January 2019), death entry for Alexander Wood, 1910, St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 53. 
  14. Scotland, “Statutory Births 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 7 January 2019), birth entry for Janet Wood, 1911, St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 252. 
  15. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 7 January 2019), death entry for Janet Brown Wood, 1912, St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 166. 
  16. Scotland, “Statutory Births 1855-2017, ” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 7 January 2018), birth entry for Mary Wood, 1913, St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 356. 
  17. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 7 January 2018), death entry for Mary Wood, 1915, St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 2. 
  18. Scotland, “Statutory Births 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 7 January 2019), birth entry for Mary Wood, 1915, St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 347. 
  19. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/737696/wood,-william/ 
  20. Scotland, “Statutory Marriages 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 27 January 2018), marriage entry for John Wood and Ellison Lough, 18 August 1917, Plean near St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/01 0039. 
  21. Scotland, “Statutory Marriages 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 27 January 2018), marriage entry for Peter Wilson Lister and Ellison Hutchison Wood, 25 November 1921, Cowie near St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/01 0076. 
  22. Scotland, “Statutory Marriages 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), marriage entry for Hugh Brown Wood and Martha Blair Dean Boyd, 31 December 1921, Falkirk in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 479/ 13. 
  23. The actual record for this birth is too recent to purchase and view, but the item is easily located on Scotlands People because of the uniqueness of the name: WOOD AGNES B BOYD F 1922 488/1 186 St Ninians. 
  24. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 28 January 2018), death entry for Annie Wood, 22 November 1923, Bannockburn near St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 108. 
  25. http://www.scottish-places.info/features/featurefirst89859.html 
  26. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), death entry for Hugh Brown Wood, 11 April 1957, Bannockburn, near St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 30. 
  27. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), death entry for Edward Brown Wood, 15 February 1925, Orwell in Kinross; citing Statutory Registers no. 463/ 5. 
  28. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 30 January 2018), death entry for David Wood, 14 December 1930, Plean in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 104. 
  29. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), death entry for Hugh Brown Wood, 17 May 1934, Stirling in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 490/ 161. 
  30. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), death entry for Mary Wood, 29 May 1934, Fallin near St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 77. 
  31. Scotland, “Statutory Marriages 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), marriage entry for Andrew Wilson and Agnes Blair Boyd Wood, 24 April 1942, Stirling in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 490/ 108. 
  32. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), death entry for William Wood, 31 July 1948, Fallin near St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 69. 
  33. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2017,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 7 January 2019), birth entry for Mary Wood, 1955, St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 1. 
  34. Scotland, “Statutory Deaths 1855-2016,” database, Scotlands People (http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk : accessed 31 January 2018), death entry for Hugh Brown Wood, 11 April 1957, Bannockburn, near St Ninians in Stirling; citing Statutory Registers no. 488/1 30. 

Author: thegenealogygirl

I'm a girl who loves genealogy. Let me tell you about it.

23 thoughts on “52 Ancestors – Mary Brown Wood, Part 2 – So Much Death

  1. This is unimaginable. Losing one child is unimaginable—but outliving all but one of the many children you gave birth to? Truly horrifying. Tuberculosis really was a terror. We are so fortunate to live in a time when diseases like that are under control and when we take for granted that a child born today will live a full life.

    I know the ache you feel. My father often says to me that he is amazed that I can care so much about people who lived so long ago, people I never knew. But we do, don’t we?

    Amazing research, Amberly. I applaud your thoroughness and persistence through what must have been a wrenching ordeal.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your very kind words, Amy. It was rough for a few days last week. It just felt like a punch to the gut over and over again.

      We really do come to know our family members as we research them. I think it is one of the great miracles of genealogy. We gain so much love, understanding, and perspective for the people we research, but also for people in general.

      And yes, we are so fortunate. It really is unimaginable to bury so many children. I hope that somehow she was able to still find some joys in life. I don’t think I could have, but for her sake, I really hope that she did.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh, this is such a sad life, it must have been raining teardrops as you typed. You honor all of this family by remembering their ups and downs and being sure other people know of their courage in carrying on through the years.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Overall such a sad story but Mary seems to have been one strong lady. She cared for her sick babies while also caring for the rest of the family and her husband of 54 years. And what about him? William Wood may not have birthed the children but I can imagine their loss must have been felt by him as well. Amberly, a genealogist’s heart needs to be BIG as we uncover the happy and the sad events in the lives of our ancestors and relatives.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Cathy. I really hope she was as strong as we imagine her to be otherwise, I fear the weight of her tragedies would have been soul crushing.

      Yes, I didn’t mean to slight William at all. His suffering must have been great as well, I just feel so connected to Mary because she is my blood and she is a woman, a mother – so I focused on her. I hadn’t even realized I basically left him out. It wasn’t intentional.

      It’s so true – we need big hearts and we have to be ready for all of it, the joys, the sorrows, the good, and the bad. But it makes it all worth it, doesn’t it? Really feeling and learning to mourn with them even when they are long since gone, and feel joy for them when we learn of their joys and successes. Genealogy really is a work of the heart. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In order to do a complete family history research you have to put your heart into it. If you don’t all you really have is a collection of facts. Just a dry history if you will. But when we put our hearts into it as you do it comes alive and meaningful. Then we have our laughs, sighs, wonderment, pride and shame. So I find that when you or anyone who does a proper family history sheds some tears I am not surprised. Because it has to be done with feeling to be done right, and you do it right.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. What a sad post. Poor Mary! Tuberculosis was such a horrible disease. I too feel my ancestors’ losses very keenly.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think Amy and Charles especially have said more eloquently everything I am thinking. Your really do inspire me Amberly.
    I did have a thought about John’s death — if he was a war casualty, newspapers carried casualty reports. The Scotsman printed lists for all Scottish (and Empire) personnel, but local newspapers also reported both death and injuries. It’s a laborious task searching through the British Newspaper Archive (I speak from experience) as it’s only randomly searchable, but as he married in August 1917, you would only have 15 months worth of reports to look through. A doddle compared to my great grandad who joined up in September 1914, and was shipped to France in May 1915. 😕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Su. Thank you for the idea! I haven’t done any Scottish newspaper searching. I know better than that, I’m just such a world traveler in my tree that I haven’t buckled down and taken the time to learn the ropes of Scottish newspapers. You mentioned the British Newspaper Archive, is that your favorite website for Scottish newspapers? Any tips for me?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s so sad. I wanted to find out more about my great, great grandmother, Catherine Mullervy and like you I ended up spending a couple of really emotional days going through the list of deaths. She outlived all but two of her ten children. Only one of her children made it past the age of 35. Truly horrific times and deaths from diseases which are fairly minor these days. I wonder how these poor mothers had the strength to face another day.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I found that the British newspaper archive is the only site that seems to have a lot of Scottish newspapers; that’s why I use it. I would probably try looking for the local paper in John’s home town first. The other thing that occurred to me is that I think Scotland’s People has soldiers’ Wills. You could try searching that database, if you haven’t already. Good luck, and if you can’t get access to the Brit newspaper archive, let me know and I’ll have a look for you.

    Liked by 1 person

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