Thursday, February 12, 2015


picture of lady on bed with tb_fixed
Courtesy of public domain, painting by Cristobal Rojas

It was Tuberculosis.  Also known for many years as consumption, phthisis, pulmonalis and the wasting disease.

There was a program that recently aired on PBS called “The Forgotten Plague.” You can go to this link and scroll down to watch this show online.  It also may be repeating on your local PBS station.

I watched this episode because I knew that we had family members who had died of this disease.  I knew for sure that my own maternal great grandfather, Andrew Charles Milne, died of it at age 36 and that my husband’s paternal great grandfather, Ellmer E. Bright, had died of it at age 30. Both men died in the late 1800’s.
There was no cure for this horrible disease until 1946 when the antibiotic streptomycin was discovered.  Until then people suffered for years and sometimes decades, or died quite quickly.
The Mayo Clinic gives this definition of Tuberculosis
“Tuberculosis (TB) is a potentially serious infectious disease that mainly affects your lungs. The bacteria that cause tuberculosis are spread from one person to another through tiny droplets released into the air via coughs and sneezes.
Once rare in developed countries, tuberculosis infections began increasing in 1985, partly because of the emergence of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. HIV weakens a person's immune system so it can't fight the TB germs. In the United States, because of stronger control programs, tuberculosis began to decrease again in 1993, but remains a concern.
Many strains of tuberculosis resist the drugs most used to treat the disease. People with active tuberculosis must take several types of medications for many months to eradicate the infection and prevent development of antibiotic resistance.”

Another definition can be found on Wikipedia at this link:

There has been a recent resurgence of this disease throughout the world and some strains are becoming resistant to treatment.

I wondered how many people in our family, that I was aware of, had died of this disease?
I ran a report in Legacy 8 for “cause of death” equal to “tuberculosis” or “consumption” or “phthisis.”  I would have listed the cause of death based on whatever record I located, so I knew it could be any of those words.

The report produced 12 names from my database.  I’m certain many more of our family must have died of this disease, since it effected so many worldwide.

However, here is the list based on the information I currently have. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Those who died of tuberculosis with death date

The earliest death on this list was 1874 and the latest was 1918.

Who in your family died of this disease?


If you think you might be related, even remotely, to anyone mentioned in this blog, please contact me!
Michigan Girl

Copyright ©  2010-2015   Diane Gould Hall


  1. Hi Diane....loved this post. I also watched the show as my grandmother, her father and brother died of TB. Guess they passed it around the family. With ten siblings, it is a miracle that more did not get it! I especially love the photo you used above. Can I ask where you found it and if I could use it in my family album? My grandmother died at East Lawn Detroit. I tried to see it when I was there doing research but apparently, it had been torn down. Nothing there now but a field on top of a high hill. A pretty location.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I too am amazed that more people didn't get this disease. How did family members avoid it? I guess they were just lucky and had the immune system to fight it off. I located that photo just by using a search engine (I used Google) and looking for images of sick or dying people in paintings. I happened upon this one and it fit the scenario. You will find many images. I had to photo shop this one a bit as the original has the lady's breast exposed and I didn't want that on my blog. So, is your family also from Detroit? And FYI, I'm also a March baby :)

  2. Diane,

    My great-grandmother, Esther, died from Tuberculosis in Brazil. She was only around 26 years of age. So sad!

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at

    Have a great weekend!

    1. I doubt there is any family who wasn't touched by this disease. When I saw the documentary I just had to write about it.
      As always, thanks for the mention Jana.

  3. Diane: A very interesting post. I agree that this disease was so widespread it touched most families in some way and so should be on the radar screen of any genealogist (amateur or professional).

    I have mentioned your post in this week's "Saturday Serendipity" at Filiopietism Prism

    1. John,
      Thank you for your comment and super thanks for mentioning my post on your blog.

  4. Dear Diane,
    Thank you for bringing this most interesting program to our attention. I did a search of my data base and came up with only three people with cause of death as some form of tuberculosis. I find that very interesting unless cause of death was listed as something else because of the stigma. My great grandmother died of it and, after her husband died, she slept in the same bed with her four daughters. Yet none of the girls showed any sign of the disease. On the other hand, a cousin of my father was treated all of her life for tuberculosis (in the 20th century). When she died at about 70 an autopsy was done and it was found that she really had a heart condition with no sign of lung problems. Thank you for your always interesting blog.

    1. Elizabeth,
      Thank you for your kind words about my blog. I certainly agree about causes of death not always being accurately listed for whatever reason. Stigma, lack of knowledge etc. How sad that your cousin was treated for the wrong condition.
      Thanks for stopping by.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.