52 Ancestors: #1 Someone No One Remembers Anymore

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?

Great-Aunt Frances as an infant.
Great-Aunt Frances as an infant.

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.

Frances Elizabeth Weaver as a child.
Frances Elizabeth Weaver as a child.

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.

The red arrow points to Great Aunt Frances in the 1900 US Census.
The red arrow points to Great Aunt Frances in the 1900 US Census.

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.

Top Causes of Death in 1900 vs. 2010
Top Causes of Death in 1900 vs. 2010. From the New England Journal of Medicine.

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.

Death certificate for Great Aunt Frances
Death certificate for Great Aunt Frances

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.

My Great Aunt Frances who died young
My Great Aunt Frances who died not too long after this photograph was taken at her home in Cleveland, Ohio.

RIP dear Aunt Frances. You’re long-gone but never forgotten – not if I have anything to do with it.

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12 responses to 52 Ancestors: #1 Someone No One Remembers Anymore

  1. Thank you for sharing this precious story. Unfortunately, during that time, many mothers had to bear this type of loss. We are so fortunate today to have so much insight into these diseases! I love your story!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks for reading about Frances. It’s a good thing that diseases like pneumonia are under control with antibiotics but we still have a long way to go to eliminate childhood diseases that take little ones so young.

  2. Brandy says:

    This post brought tears to my eyes. What a blessing that your family has photographs of this dear one. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Karen says:

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Brandy:) Over the years, I’ve looked at these few pictures of Frances and it just seemed time to say a few words about her. I’m glad you stopped by to read about her.

  3. Simon says:

    Very moving story, Karen. I think we all have relatives who had been forgotten but are now remembered by us telling their stories for all to read. The photo’s show that Frances was a lovely child and thank you for sharing.

    • Karen says:

      Simon – I appreciate you stopping by to get to know my great aunt Frances. You’re so right about the many forgotten relatives whose stories are now being told by family historians like the two of us. Karen

    • Karen says:

      Thank you Jo for reading about Aunt Frances and visiting here at Extreme Ancestry. You inspire me to keep going on this 52 Ancestors challenge:)

  4. Renate says:

    Another beautifully-written post. What a blessing that you family has pictures to document Frances’ life!

    Thanks for sharing her with us. 🙂


    • Karen says:

      Thank you so much Renate for your feedback:) I’ve always loved that picture of Aunt Frances but the 52 Ancestors 52 Week challenge inspired me to learn more about her.

  5. Amy says:

    What a moving story. I am glad that you took the time to call out her name. Now she won’t be forgotten. Beautifully written post!

    • Karen says:

      Thank you so much Amy!! I’m grateful for your feedback and also for the fact that you took time to read about Great-Aunt Frances. Now she truly lives on in memory.


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  1. […] New England Journal of Medicine to tell us about her great-aunt Frances Elizabeth Weaver. In “Someone No One Remembers Anymore,” Karen tells how Frances died and how her death fit the norm of that era. It’s not […]