SNGF: The Day of my Grandfather’s Birth

Randy Seaver over at has his weekly Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge out.  This week we’re to look up our grandfather’s birthday, find out what day of the week it was, note any historical events, and see if anyone famous was born on that day.

My Paternal Grandfather, Jean Lassalle, was born 29 Jun 1888 in Ogeu les bains, France.    I used Google Search to find the information I needed.  The website gave me the day of week:  Friday.

They had one historical event for his birthday:  the first recording of classical music was made.   It was produced on a wax cylinder.  The piece was Handel’s “Israel in Egypt”.  Using Wikipedia, I found that the recording was made by George Edward Gourard.  According to the History Channel website, Gourard was Thomas Edison’s agent in Europe.  Wikipediea has a copy of the recording on their page for Gourard.

Wikipedia lists two famous people born on Grandpa’s day in 1888:  Alexandr Friedmann, a Russian physicist and mathematician, and Squizzy Taylor, an Australian gangster.

I decided just to stick with the exact day to make it pertain more to my grandfather.  However, it was an important year.  The first wax drinking straw was invented, the National Geographic Society was founded, George Eastman took out the patent on the “Kodak Box Camera”, California got its very first seismograph (really, 1888?), and Thomas Edison took out a patent on the first movie machine, the “Optical Phonograph.”  Sounds like science and discovery was booming that year…and really, where would we be without the invention of the drinking straw?


Why did all these children die in Maia in 1861?

I’m working through the Obitos (death records) for the village of Maia, Ribeira Grande, Sao Miguel Island, Azores.  Sometimes death records can be depressing.  They also present questions that can’t really be answered unless someone has written a history of the area.

Case in point, I am working on the 1860s.  In 1860, there were only 10 pages of records–23 death total.  Then, in 1861, there 29 pages–112 deaths total.  The following year there are only 14 pages of death records–45 deaths total.  After that year, there are never more than 19 pages of records.

What really struck me was in 1861 the majority of people who died were children.  And, most of them under the age of 5.  I would say 85-90% of the records were for children.  Some families lost more than one child.

What happened that year that saw such a spike in child mortality?  Was there an epidemic?  Perhaps it was a flu strain that hit children the hardest.

The records in this era don’t include a cause of death, so there’s no way to know for use.  But, it is clear from the amount of records that something happened that year.  It would be interesting to see if other villages also experienced a spike.  For now, I am only left wondering what happened in Maia in 1861.


Resolving Lost Children in My de Braga Line

Boy, my blogging has been slim to nothing lately.  I apologize but a huge project with a deadline was dumped on me at the end of August and I couldn’t do anything else.  I’m still in the midst of it.

Of course, right in the middle of this project, the records I’ve been waiting on all summer came online.  These are the records for the village of Maia in Ribeira Grande on the island of Sao Miguel.  I’ve already worked through Achada and Fenais da Vera Cruz my other main villages.  I had researched in Maia in the late 1990s.  But, when arthritis hit my neck and shoulders I couldn’t sit at a microfilm reader anymore.  I’ve waited some 15 years to pick up where I left off.

So…I have been sneaking peeks at the death records in between the work I’m supposed to be doing.   This is one record set I never got to research.  I remember when I first started working in Maia people persuaded me from wasting time on them as they found them to be of little value.

However, now that I’m going back to them, I realize death records can answer many questions for me.  The most obvious is putting ancestors to rest.  That is one box on the family groups sheet no longer blank.  But, I have more important questions like “Did my gr gr grandparents leave any other children behind?”  “Did their cousin bring all his children to Hawaii?”

For the first question, I already knew that Jozimas and Maria (de Mello) de Braga left their son, Seraphim behind.  What about Jose and Jacintho?  I now have the answer.  Both boys died as babies.  It makes me think how much more difficult it must have been to leave Seraphim behind knowing they may never see him again.  They’d already buried two of their children.

I came to the same result with Diniz de Braga’s son Jose.  Off and on, I have searched for him in Hawaii hoping there was another de Braga line to trace.  But, it is not to be.  Jose also died as an infant.  It ruins any chance of more relatives from that line, but it is a final answer to the question.  I no longer have to search.

The records for Maia in this era are impressive.  I’ve worked in other villages and they are not as detailed.  These give the parents of married people (absent in some other villages).  It also lists how many children the person had–something I have not seen in other villages.  I suspect since this is the 1870s the records are more detailed.  I expect to see less when I go backwards.

Two questions resolved in just one week.  I like when genealogy works that way!