Since I started this little genealogy blog, I have “virtually” met some incredible folks from around the world - cousins, genealogists, bloggers, photographers, historians, researchers, collectors and more. I’m always amazed at the ease with which a connection can be made while tracing ancestral clues.
Earlier this year, a kind soul named Nick reached out to me from the UK. He was promoting his services for Pick Nick Photo Restoration Services. I checked out his website and his rates were incredibly reasonable starting at US $15, UK £10. Since I have a LOT of photos, I was very intrigued. Though for about a second I hesitated as I thought, hey, why would I send my photos to the UK? Then I remembered we live in a digital world and the only thing I needed to send him were photos of my photos taken with my iPhone (or a scanner) and email.
I started digging through my collection and quickly realized I was super lucky to have so old photos in amazing condition. Really, really lucky.
While I was struggling to select a pic, an image sort of jumped out at me - my Great Grandmother Mary Draisey Atkinson and an adorable baby. The photo was tucked in a 1900's Boot Jack Plug tobacco tin that, presumably, belonged to my grandfather Benjamin. There were three other photos in the tin identified as Martha, Martha Babies and Mary Tuchett & Sister Martha.
I whipped out my one year old iPhone and took a photo of the 1 inch by 2 inch itty-bitty-over-one-hundred-years-old-plus image and emailed it off to Nick, in the U.K., from the U.S. For a moment, I had a flashback to my youth recalling USPS pen pals and checking the mail box every day waiting for letters to arrive.
Within a few days, Nick expeditiously sent me back the photo beautifully restored. I wanted to share it right away, but I needed to do more research on Martha and then a few other things got in the way - you know, work, remodel, caregiving, hospitals, etc…
Anyways. A few months later, here I am, thanking Nick and his old photo restoration, marveling about the ease with which I could send it across the world and share what I have discovered about Martha Jane Atkinson. A task I could not have accomplished without a few of those new cousins I’ve met.
Thank you to everyone - Barbara especially.
Martha Jane Atkinson
Alas, I cannot be certain that Great Grandma Mary is holding my Great Aunt Martha, her first born child, as there is no writing on the back of the photo. I can only speculate it is Martha because of how young Mary looks and how this photo was stored with other images of Martha. Plus that curly hair. They did put boys in christening dresses for photos back in the day, but the way the hair is styled screams girl to me.
Martha Jane Atkinson, was born 29 May 1883 in Nelson Lancashire England to Mary Draisey Atkinson and Charles Atkinson. Her brother Benjamin (my grandfather) was born 1884. Then came Charles in 1886 and John in 1888 - but he survived less than a year.
In December 1889, the family moved to Brisbane Australia. It is believed that Charles was recruited for his carpentry skills. You can read about that story here. While the Atkinson Family was in Australia, Martha's sister Annie was born in 1892 and Lillian in 1896.
I'm not sure why, but the family set sail from Brisbane Australia in 1900 bound for Utah. Most likely as it was the epicenter of the LDS church of which they were members. They arrived in Vancouver Canada (as UK citizens) then took the train to Salt Lake City. According to a family document, “along the way they encountered a snow storm and the children got off the train when it stopped and ran around in the snow in their bare feet not realizing that it would be cold. Snow was something they had never seen before."
In Salt Lake, Martha's sister Nellie was born in 1900, then her brother Clifford in 1904. According to Salt Lake City directories she lived at 146 E. 11th South with her parents and siblings and worked:
- 1901 machine operator ZCMI
- 1902 residence but no job listed 11th South 1 w of 2nd east
- 1903 Trimmer Women's Co-Op
- 1904 ZCMI as a machine operator (probably a seamstress)
[Note: City directories are like the white pages (if you remember those) and are an amazing source. They are tucked all over the internet and within genealogy websites. Try FindMyPast.com or Archive.org or even Google Books.]
On November 17, 1904, Martha married a young soldier named Miles E. Growt, from Minnesota, who was stationed at Fort Douglas. I learned from the US Army Register of Enlistments on Ancestry.com that Miles enlisted in 1902 and was 5 feet 6 inches tall and had dark brown hair. And this in the remarks, but I can't make sense of it.
They lived somewhere in the Fort Douglas area and her sister, Lillian, used to take the street car to help Martha when she was pregnant with twin babies. Family rumor has it that Martha’s marriage did not have her family’s approval.
The twins, Miles George and Martha Mary were born on May 28, 1905. Now I suspect, given that Martha was married in November, and the twins were born in May, only 6 months after the wedding, that there is a strong possibility when Martha married Miles Grout she was already pregnant. Perhaps this accounts for the possible family disapproval?
Martha died shortly after giving birth on June 6, 1905 age 22 years and 7 days at the L.D.S. Hospital. Her death certificate indicated primary cause was uremia contributing factor chronic nephritis. Uremia is a condition involving abnormally high levels of waste products in the blood. Chronic Nephritis is essentially kidney failure. But interestingly, a family document indicated that Martha died of a massive infection that started in her legs and was known as “milk leg.” Of course I had to look all of this up, and milk leg is painful swelling of the leg after giving birth, caused by thrombophlebitis in the femoral vein. Thrombophlebitis = blood clot. Perhaps it was a combination of factors.
Miles George Grout lived two short months and died from Cholera Infantum on August 10, 1905. Cholera infantum in the early 19th century was a term used for a disease of infants, typically a summer complaint for severe gastroenteritis in infants caused by unknown pathogens, possibly contaminated food. It prevailed in children in summer and was characterized by vomiting, uncontrollable diarrhea and collapse.
In researching Cholera Infantum I learned it's much more complicated as the name was "applied with great looseness to a whole group of infantile maladies." Now it could be as simple as they had no refrigeration (home refrigerators didn't come along until 1913) and thus milk & food spoiled in hot summers and babies were more susceptible to getting ill from spoiled food, thus how Miles died. Or it could be some other cause that was just attributed to Cholera Infantum.
The remaining twin, Martha Mary, was taken in by Mary Draisey Atkinson, my great grandmother (learn more about Mary here). But the poor child passed away September 12, 1906 age one year 3 months 14 days. The chief cause of death was listed as "inanition and teething" with a contributory of "Cholera Infantum". The doctor indicated that he attended the baby from June 1, 1906 to September 11, 1906 and last saw her alive on September 11, 1906 and that the death occurred on the dated stated above at 1am and the duration of the disease was 10 days.
I can only speculate that the doctor was tending to the baby at the home of my great grandmother and she found the baby dead in the middle of night or Martha was in a hospital for a few months and passed away there. I'll never know.
As if all this tragedy isn't enough - according to a family document: “Upon Martha’s death, Miles disappeared never to be heard from again, until in 1963 members of the family took it upon themselves to find this man from long ago. They located him in Los Angeles. At the time he was 75 years old living with his wife Carrie. He had two daughters by that marriage. Sometime after that he died in a Veteran’s hospital. Don’t try to get lost in this family, someone will find you.”
I can only imagine what a formidable woman Mary Draisey Atkinson must have been. She lost two children shortly after they were born, her first born child died shortly after giving birth to twins, then she took the twins in when Martha's husband ran away (the heartache he must have felt, or relief?), then both the twins died. Not to mention Mary raised 7 children cared for them in the UK, then Australia then US. I cannot imagine the will that woman must have had! She passed in 1933 age 59.
Had Mary lived a few more years, she would had to deal with her son Charles being crushed in a gravel pit in 1936. You can read that story here. So much tragedy!
I have to again give a tremendous thank you to my cousin Barbara who did a LOT of research on Martha and shared the data with me. It is so important to share in genealogy as the puzzle pieces are so often spread among family members! How Barbara navigated her way through all the misspellings of Martha’s married last name Growt, Grant, Grout and Atkinson, Adkinson, Atkins is a perfect example of the importance of reading documents closely. There are so many typos in genealogy. (And in my writing. I know, I tend to write these entries in the wee hours of the night.)
Another shout out and thank you to Nick and his Photo Restoration Services for restoring this tiny sweet photo (and a few others) and also inspiring me to solve this mystery my indirectly leading me to Martha. What will your photo restoration lead you to?
Until next time,
Happy Genealogy Hunting!
- Epson Perfection V600 Photo Scanner - This is the one I use and I love it. I got mine on Amazon for $198.99
- Medical - if you are looking for medical information you can trust, I turn to the Medline Plus, MayoClinic, and the National Institute of Health websites.
- Cholera Infantum - interesting report from 1893 on the US National Library of Medicine archives.
- Getting started in genealogy? Check out the book How to Do Everything Genealogy 4th Edition by George Morgan available on Amazon.