Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Lost Children

One family heirloom in my possession is "Detsie's cup." I don't know anything about this cup, except that it supposedly belonged to Detsie Ballein (pictured at right), the eldest child of Elma and Hite Ballein and the sister of my paternal grandmother, Jennie Esther Ballein. It's just a small metal cup with a little handle and some engraving on it. Perhaps it was a gift from first time parents to their little girl. Detsie was born January 10, 1897 and died on August 27, 1899. It occurs to me for the first time that I don't even know where Detsie is buried. A little lost life; one of many in the days before advances in medicine. And, sadly, a life often forgotten in the course of genealogical research.

My maternal grandparents, Mary and Edd Donaldson, also lost two children. Ernest Mitchell Donaldson, known as Mitchell, was born in 1922 and died as an infant on January 8, 1923 from pneumonia. I don't believe I have ever seen a picture of Mitchell. Everett Dudley Donaldson was their second child, born in 1918. The story goes that at the age of five, Everett stepped on barbed wire and contracted tetanus, which took his life. It had to have been an emotional and time in my grandparents' lives. In 1922, Mitchell was born. In January 1923, Mitchell died. In January 1924, Rosemary was born. In March 1924, Everett died. Not only did they need to cope with the loss of their sons, but explain it to their other sons, Clarence and Edward. This picture shows Everett and big brother Clarence and little brother Edward on the pony. Mitchell and Everett are buried in Troutwine Cemetery in Lynchburg, Ohio.

Family trees are full of these little lost lives. We know little about them, except perhaps their birth and death dates. However, we need to honor the memory of these children and the families who loved them by remembering them as more than birth and death dates in the family tree.

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