In Part 1 last week, we talked about how your family’s medical history can be helpful for learning why one of your ancestors may be found in an unexpected location. But your family’s medical history can also be useful in finding why your ancestors went where they did. In the 19th and 20th centuries, many people of various social classes and cultures suffered from a disease called tuberculosis, or consumption. In the United States, sufferers were isolated, often taken to mountain resorts where the air was considered to be therapeutic. Separation was also the order in Europe. If the family could not afford to send the infected person away, they’d send away the children in the household. When children are missing, consider finding grandparents and aunts and uncles. The ill English were sent to recuperate in the country away from the hustle and bustle of city life, sometimes becoming long-term residents in resorts.
People with rare blood conditions such as hemophilia or anemia would often go to consult special doctors, the same way people do today. Look at who the experts on a disease were at a certain time and where they lived and practiced. This can often be discovered by looking up a history of a disease online. This may help determine if there were children born out of the country while someone was waiting to be healed.
A word to the wise: In the past there were two places for sick people to go: health resorts or spas or what were called sanitariums. In modern times when people hear sanitarium they think of archaic, horror movie-type psychiatric hospitals. But in previous centuries sanitarium was simply a name for a long-term medical facility, often one that specialized in a specific disease. These special facilities were similar to resorts and dealt with leprosy, mental handicaps, tuberculosis, labor complications, and other chronic disorders and health issues. Don’t shy away from a place because it seems to have a dubious name. If an ancestor spent years in such a facility they may have family in the area or fallen in love there and started a family.
So when looking for a lost relation, or looking to bridge the gap of time, health can be a powerful tool. Happy hunting and have a fabulous search!