Suffer the little children


November 6, 2016 by Carmel

As people’s interest in family history continues to grow, many people will be shocked to see the high infant mortality rate in the United Kingdom in the 1800s.

Causes of death you may come across include typhus, whooping cough, smallpox and a condition described as Phthisis (pronounced thigh-sis) or Consumption, which is more commonly known now as tuberculosis. In the 1860s, two-fifths of all deaths in Glasgow were due to respiratory diseases and tuberculosis.

In cities, living conditions were far from healthy with overcrowding in poorly-kept tenements. In the mining communities of Scotland, the conditions were exacerbated by the ever-present dampness in the two-room dwellings that often housed ten children, and the coal dust that hung in the air and on clothes.

Families were decimated as adults and children of all ages succumbed to the highly infectious disease of tuberculosis which was characterised by the wasting away or atrophy of the body. People literally watched their loved ones waste away.  They didn’t know that it was a bacterial infection spread by coughing and sneezing, and in such cramped conditions, with children sleeping three or four to a bed, it was inevitable that the disease spread.

My own ancestors suffered and lost several children to tuberculosis and I write about it in my novel ‘Ours, Yours and Mines’. I cried when I found the death certificates of little children.  I am so thankful that I live in an age where medical care has advanced so greatly and many diseases that once meant death, can now be cured.





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