This is the first post in my 2014 weekly series of family stories as part of the 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks challenge. Sadly, this first story is about someone no one remembers anymore, someone whose name is never spoken –
Frances Elizabeth Weaver.
Frances was my maternal great-aunt. She was born in Cleveland, Ohio on September 1, 1905 to my great grandparents, Jennie Daisy (Hood) and Prince Albert Weaver who married in 1889. Their eldest daughter, Hazel Edna was my grandmother and Frances was the last child, the baby of the family. The picture below is Frances as a toddler. She’s already showing a bit of personality with that wry smile of hers, don’t you think?
Because my great grandparents were a biracial couple, they had family who wanted nothing to do with them. From our oral family history, I know that my great-grandmother, who everyone affectionately called “Dom”, was especially careful to make sure that her mixed race children were surrounded with love and affection – probably more than you would expect in an average turn-of-the-century family. I bet little Frances got the benefit of all that love and was adored by her parents and older siblings.
By 1910 when the census taker came around, Frances was only four years old. [see excerpt from the 1910 United States census below]. My Grandmother Hazel would be soon heading off to college at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Siblings Clara and Ernest were still at home and twelve and fifteen years old.
What the census doesn’t reflect is that there were two other sisters who died young – Dorothy Phyl, who died in 1893 as an infant and Doris Evelyn, who died at three years old only a year before Frances was born.
Unfortunately, Frances would die young, too. I hope she enjoyed her short childhood, because she was only eight years old when she came down with lobar pneumonia. It was caused by a strep bacteria – the kind that antibiotics could easily wipe out today. But when Frances got ill in 1914, it would be decades before antibiotics became a viable treatment option in the 1940s and why an illness like pneumonia came with a death sentence.
As you can see from the chart below, pneumonia, pointed out by the black arrow, was a major cause of death in 1900, but not years later in 2010. No – sad to say, we replaced that health risk with a greatly increased incidence of heart disease and cancer. I digress though. I’m sure that’s a topic for another blog post some day.
Frances’s pneumonia was complicated by an inflammation of the lungs called “pleurisy”. Those two conditions combined to cause her death on January 17, 1914. She was eight years old. Even though I obviously never knew my great-aunt Frances, I hate to think of her dying so young and of the impact of that tragedy on my great grandparents, who had already lost two children.
So I prefer to think of Frances, outside with my great grandmother, in this long ago photo. Frances smiling for the camera and so charming with the big floppy bow in her hair. I also like to believe she’d be glad to know that someone thinks of her, from time to time, and remembers that she once lived.
RIP dear Aunt Frances. You’re long-gone but never forgotten – not if I have anything to do with it.