Friday, February 1, 2013

Follow Friday ~ The 1918 Flu Epidemic

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918.  At the time, we were experiencing a terrible flu outbreak in 2009.  Here are again in 2013, experiencing another flu outbreak, and somewhere families are being affected.   Death, and its aftermath can change your family history in unimaginable ways.  In 2009 I blogged about a young father dying, causing his children to be farmed out to family members, and my grandfather (the brother-in-law, yet only a teenager) had to quit school at 8th grade and go be “the man of the family” to his sisters household.  The death of his brother-in-law changed his life forever.

US. Naval History and Heritage Command Photo #: NH 41731-A

Did the 1918 Flu affect your family? Perhaps you had some young person die in 1918 and didn’t realize that it was due to this epidemic? What was the aftermath.  This disaster killed mostly young people, many of them young parents.

Some recent, and some not so recent, genealogy blog posts about the 1918 influenza epidemic:

Jim Craig “Influenza Part II: Their Only Son: Wesley Gillette Dempster”

Elroy Davis "Sickness Saturday - Influenza 1918"

Gail Grunst “Honoring Ancestors who Died too Young: Hugo Kaiser”

Ryan Owen “1918: Spanish Influenza Invades Massachusetts”  

Maurine Pool “Death in the Family: 1918 Spanish Flu” 

John Tew “The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918”

Miriam Robbins "Jennie James Valk"

Bill West "Floyd E. West, Sr. at Camp Devens, Sept. 1918"

Carol Bowen Stevens "1918 Flu Epidemic, Quarantine Rules"

Cynthia Shenette wrote a three part series about the epidemic at her blog "Heritage Zen" You can catch the first post at this link, and click on parts 2 and 3:

This one is from Roxanne Saucier's genealogy column in the Bangor Daily News "Millinocket Mother one of  Maine's 5,000 influenza casualties in 1918"

And last, but not least, my own blog post from 2009 about how a 1918 influenza death affected the history of my family tree in a very sad way…

If I missed a genealogy blog post about the 1918 “Spanish Flu” or any other interesting genealogy blog post about influenza, please leave a link in the comments below.

Update 4 March 2013
A great blog post from the MIT Alumni blog "Slice of MIT" about how the Institute handled the 1918 flu epidemic, and subsequent other flu pandemics:

Published under a Creative Commons License
Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Follow Friday ~ The 1918 Flu Epidemic", Nutfield Genealogy, posted 1 February 2013 ( accessed [access date]). 


  1. My post from 2008 about ny grandfather who was at the Camp(later Fort)Devens, Ma during the Spanish Flu epidemic.

  2. Heather: As I note at my post on the 1918 Flu, I have had an interest in this for a long time and that was why I realized immediately what my grandfather's postcard (provided at my blog post) meant. Thank you for collecting all these blog posts on the subject! I now know what I will be reading over the weekend. :-)

    Did you see the footnote explanation in my post about how and why the 1918 pandemic came to be known as the "Spanish Flu" (it was a complete disservce to Spain, by the way!)?


  3. I haven't done any posts about the Spanish Flu, but I do know from family stories and letters that my grandmother Minnie Smith Yates was so scared that her husband Will Yates would come home from France with flu. He didn't, but I can imagine how terrifying it was to want your loved ones back home, but frightened they might bring a deadly disease.

  4. Interestingly, I just looked at my database of over 4,500 individuals and only one person died in 1918 (in January) and I don't know what he died of; he was 62-63 years old. Of the two individuals who died in 1919, neither died of the flu. So no blog posts from me about influenza.

  5. I'm sure the 1918 flu must have affected my family, but I have not yet found out how. In my mother's family (she was born in 1915), no one died. Maybe the flu didn't make it as far as the South Carolina farm country. I've read about that flu in the book "The Great Influenza," and it was sudden and devastating.

  6. Heather, this was a great post. I lost family in the typhoid epidemic in 1887 so I was especially interested. I've added this to my list of favorites for today!

    Thanks for the great post!

    1. Thanks, Heather! I'm glad you listed this post, it will drive more traffic to those great stories. I think its important for genealogists to realize how this epidemic changed family history across the globe.

  7. what to say i praise of this blog, which contains a lot of amazing information as well as the thoughtful writes.

  8. Thanks for including my post. This is a very interesting collection of family stories. It's interesting to see how different families were affected and how their descendants found the information.