Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Family Medical History

I have recently been printing copies of Ohio death certificates from FamilySearch.org.   I already have many death certificates, but this time I am focusing on relatives from whom I am not directly descended (and, quite honestly, for whose death certificates I wouldn't pay).  My primary medical concern has been stroke, since there is a strong family history on my dad's side of the family.  As I read the death certificates, though, I noticed another pattern - death by train.

I have known for some time that my great-uncle, Lewis Jefferson Dudley, died after being hit by a train.  Uncle Lew was the second child of Jesse and Mary Shaper Dudley and the brother of my grandmother, Mary Dudley Donaldson.  Other than the cause of his death, we don't know much about Lew.  From the newspaper account, he must have been walking along the railroad tracks on the night of November 11, 1906 when he was hit by a train.  He sustained a deep wound in the back of his head and a leg was amputated below the knee.  His death has puzzled me for years.  This was a 25-year-old man walking along railroad tracks he had probably walked along many times.  Had he been drinking?  Was he sick?  Did he have an enemy?  Was he depressed?  We may never know.

William Henry Ballein, the eldest son of my great-great grandfather Peter Ballein and his first wife, Margaret Yochum, was born January 7, 1858.  He was was killed on January 15, 1926 when he was struck by a train in Winchester, Adams County, Ohio.  His skull had been fractured.  I'll have to do a little more research on this some day.

And then there is Dwight Wardlow.  Dwight was the son of my great-great grandparents, John and Lulu Dunn Wardlow.  Dwight was born November 15, 1888 and died at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday July 29, 1945 when he was struck by a train in Washington Township, Brown County, Ohio.  He sustained multiple injuries and, according to his death certificate, his "body showed effect of having been drinking liquor."  

The irony, of course, is that my dad, Russell Lee Davis, was a brakeman on the railroad for 35 years.  He sustained injuries and had a lot of close calls, but survived it in one piece (after his finger tip was reattached).  I wonder if my grandmother, Esther Ballein Davis, who had two uncles killed by trains, was uneasy when the B & O Railroad hired him.  All I know is that when I take my brisk walks to try to ward off the threat of stroke, I won't be walking around any railroad tracks.

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