Only The Good…

Week 9: #52Ancestors – Gone Too Soon

By Eilene Lyon

There’s no shortage of sad tales about infant/toddler deaths in any family tree. I’m more drawn to the tales of young people who had time to develop their personalities, who had an excellent chance at surviving to adulthood (or did), or of having long lives.

In the past, as now, accidents tend to claim the lives of unlucky teens and early 20-somethings. Some died from disease. Others had the misfortune of being killed in battle.

Following are a few of those in my tree who exited the stage before a proper curtain call.

Marietta Ransom (1860-1886) was the first child of Bazel B. Ransom and Mary D. Clore (first of three wives who all died too young). Bazel was my 2rd great-granduncle. Retta, as the young woman was known in Elk Falls, Kansas, died of a ruptured brain aneurysm on December 29, 1886.

The Weekly Star and Kansan (Independence), December 31, 1886 p. 5 (

Frank Jenkins (1867-1878). Killed at age ten in an accident involving a runaway horse on the J. Kessler farm in Jay County, Indiana. He was the son of my 2nd great-granduncle, Thomas Bedford Jenkins and his wife, Patience Randall.

Frank Jenkins’ headstone in Hillside Cemetery, Pennville, Indiana. (E. Lyon 2017)

Geneva E. Jones (1845-1864) was the daughter of my first cousin 4x removed, Dr. Benjamin H. Jones, and Mariah Zinn. She died at age 18 during the Civil War, just a few months after her father’s death. I have not found any record other than the notation in a family Bible. Her grave in Hillside Cemetery at Pennville, Indiana, is unmarked.

From the Samuel Jones family Bible. (Courtesy of J. W. Beck)

Rhodanna Anderson (1846-1866) lived not far from her contemporary, Geneva Jones, in Blackford County, Indiana. Again, I have little to document her short life aside from her grave marker in the Trenton South Cemetery. She was the daughter of my 3rd great-granduncle, William T. Anderson and his wife, Rosanna Havens.

Rhodanna Anderson memorial on a family headstone in the Trenton South Cemetery. (E. Lyon 2017)

I’ve written more extensively about a few young men who died during WWII:

Orville E. Bodtker

Rosswell R. Halse

Jack P. Laird

Feature image: by Angela Orenda on Unsplash

31 thoughts on “Only The Good…

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    1. Far too many died from childbirth, for sure. Even from botched abortions, too. I always wonder about the young, unmarried ones, like Geneva and Rhodanna. It could have been TB. It was quite prevalent there and then. But I’ll never know.

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      1. Oh my goodness yes. My grandmother wanted to have my mother aborted. The doctor’s office was so dirty, she turned around (I cannot say I am sad about THAT.) Right. TB was a big one…

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  1. It’s easy to forget how many children died young, mourned by their parents one hopes, but also left in a graveyard somewhere when the family moved on. Those monuments tug at my heart.

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  2. When my mother and I made a trip to Nova Scotia, where her maternal side of the family is from, we found the family monument with one name she didn’t recognize: Baby Robert. Robert would have been her mother’s first nephew, but no one in the family had ever mentioned him. I found his death certificate online. He died at home at two weeks old with no cause of death noted except that he was found dead. (I assume it was some kind of SIDS.) Even more surprising, his grandfather, in whose house his parents were living, was listed as the Registrar who reported the death. Very, very sad.

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    1. It’s hard for us to imagine all the perils to young lives in those days. No prenatal care, no knowledge of blood types or other potential issues, such as genetics. And the diseases!!! My gosh, we have it good, don’t we?

      I think so many babies leave no record at all. In the Dexter Cemetery which hold a ton of my family in South Dakota, there is a marker for “Gusso babies” that no one knows about. There are most likely siblings to my grandmother and I heard a rumor that here parents had a baby before her, but it’s a mystery.

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  3. What a sad collection of stories. I also have far too many who died young. The 1918 flu epidemic took many. And I am always so grateful for modern medicine when I see how many infants and young children succumbed to diseases that today are either protected against by vaccines or easily treated with antibiotics.

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  4. Eilene, it is so sad when we go back like this and look at these short lives and realize they were people just like us and so were their parents. One tragedy after another. You are lucky when you find out the cause of death. It can be so difficult to find out anything. A newspaper article like that is FAB.

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    1. I consider the digitization of newspapers the best thing that’s happened to family history. I was working in researching a person for my book today – name of Paul Wilson – and NEVER would have figured out his family without newspaper articles.


  5. We have two very old cemeteries that I have written about in the past and I was surprised to see just how many youngsters were on grave markers or tombstones, sometimes just their first names (though they were not stillborn or infants). I think the name “Little Willy” sticks out in my mind. It’s sad in any era when parents bury their children.

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