Do Your Ancestor’s Haunt You?

Since I’m getting up there in years, I have had the unfortunate experience of seeing most of my family member’s pass on as well as some friends and coworkers.  I can’t say that I have ever seen anything or felt haunted by any of them. With that said, I have wondered about a couple of incidents that happened.

I had a clock in my house that was from my grandmother’s house.  I came home one day to find that the clock stopped a little after 12 pm.  Later that day I got a phone call that my grandmother had passed away.  My Aunt went to visit her in the nursing home around 5 pm.  As soon as she walked in, she knew my grandmother was dead.  She went to the nurse’s station and informed them.  My Aunt said that her lunch tray was still there, and it appeared that she had not touched her lunch.  Apparently, no one had checked on her since they brought her lunch.  Now I don’t know what time they brought lunch to her, but I assume it could be around 12 pm.  I have always wondered if she passed away at the time the clock stopped.  Later that night, I was in bed and could not sleep; and I thought I heard foot steps in the hallway.  I thought maybe grandma was coming to get one more look at her great-grandchildren.  After that I never heard or felt anything.  I didn’t connect the clock stopping with her death right away.  It wasn’t until someone told me when her father died, the clocks in her house stopped.  The clock never worked again.

I went to a cemetery to find my great-grandfather’s grave.  I had a hard time with this particular great-grandfather.  First I had very little information about him, so little in fact, that I thought it would be impossible to find him.  Also, he used his middle name, which everyone thought was his first name.  So I would find some records where he used his first name which no one in the family knew, or he would use his middle name which was the name everyone knew him by.  It took me years to find out if this was two individuals or one person using both names.  I went off to the cemetery to see if the mystery of the two names could be solved.  I asked a man working in the cemetery office where my great-grandfather was buried in the cemetery.  He took a big book down off a shelf and opened it up to the page that listed my great-grandfather.  We both laughed at the coincidence of opening the book to exact page.  He gave me instructions as to where to find the grave, but stated that the grave had no tombstone.  I knew right then that this was not going to help me solve the mystery.  I then asked him if he could tell me who owned the lot.  He said that was in another book and he took that one down from the shelf and opened it up.  Again, he opened to the page that listed my great-grandfather.  At this point, his eyes became huge as if he was frightened, and he looked at me and said, “Grandpa really wants you to find him.”  It turned out that the state owned the lot and great-grandpa was buried in a pauper’s grave.  So the mystery was not solved that day, but I have often thought about the coincidence of opening two books to the exact page that listed my great-grandfather.

Now I don’t know if these two incidents would be considered the haunting of ghosts or what.  I have had the experience of thinking about a person and later that day or the next day finding out that they passed on.  I have heard stories of ancestor ghosts from others.  It would be nice if some ancestors would visit me and help me solve some brick walls.


Honoring Ancestors who died too young: Ruth Kaiser

Ruth is not exactly an ancestor of mine, but I have heard about Ruth since I was a little girl.  Ruth was my grandfather’s first wife.  He was married to her a little over a year when she died.

Ruth was born Ruth Muzzey on September 5, 1898 in DeKalb, DeKalb, Illinois.  She married Fred Kaiser on October 28, 1920 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois.  She died November 8, 1921.  According to her death certificate she died of Eclampsia (seizures and coma that happen during pregnancy but are not due to pre-existing or organic brain disorders), pregnancy and uremic coma.  Secondary condition was Pyebitis Pyonephrosis.

I had to look these medical terms up to understand what exactly happened.  From what I can deduce is that she had a pre-existing kidney condition before becoming pregnant.  According to her death certificate the doctor treated her for Pyebitis Pyonephrosis (a kidney condition) for 11 months and 20 days.  I remember my grandmother saying that Ruth was told that she should not get pregnant, but she did and it caused her death.  The death certificate also states that the doctor treated her for the Eclampsia and pregnancy from September 1 though November 8, 1921.  A Cesarean Section was preformed prior to death.  It does not say how far along she was in her pregnancy.

Once again, I felt for my grandfather.  In April of 1919 he lost his brother to Influenza, then 2 ½ years later he loses his wife and child.  It seems like more than one could bear.

Then I wondered about Ruth’s family, her parents, brothers and sisters.  I never heard anything about Ruth’s family of origin.  What I did hear about Ruth came from my grandmother, not my grandfather.  I never heard my grandfather talk about Ruth.  My grandmother was a Ruth’s friend so she is the one that kept Ruth’s memory alive.  But I could not remember Grandma saying anything about Ruth’s family.  Maybe she did, but back then it really didn’t mean anything to me.  Even after starting genealogy, I just ignored her until recently because she was not a blood relative.

I had to find her on the censuses to get a glimpse into her life. I also found her family tree on Ancestry.  It looks like she was the youngest of seven children.  She was 10 years younger than her next closest sibling.    Her father and one brother preceded Ruth in death.  Ruth’s mother and other siblings died after Ruth. The last of her siblings died in 1966.  I wonder if they were close to her and what their thoughts were when she died.  Apparently, they did not keep in touch with my grandfather.  I think I would have heard if he were in touch with Ruth’s family.  Too bad I was too young at the time to ask the right questions.

Another thing that struck me in researching her life was that there was a cesarean section done.  What happened to the baby?  There was never any mention of the baby.  I assumed it died too.  That started me thinking that there should be a birth and/or death record.  I was able to find a death record on Familysearch.  It was just an index entry, they did not have a picture of the original.  However, I did get some information from the index. Here is the information from the index.

Name:  Kaiser; Death Date:  8 November 1921; Gender: Male; Birth Date: 8 November 1921;  Birth Place:  Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Father: Fred Kaiser; Father’s Birth Place:  Chicago, IL; Mother: Ruth Muzzey; Mother’s Birth Place: IL.

I wonder if the baby was near full-term or born premature.  If premature, how premature was it?  Apparently, the baby was never given a first name.  What happened to the baby?  Was he buried? Cremated?  I know he is not buried near his mother because I have been to Ruth’s grave.  She is buried on one side of my grandfather, and my grandmother is buried on the other side of my grandfather. Also buried there are my grandfather’s parents, his brother, and my mother and father.

Did Grandpa think of Ruth on their wedding anniversary (October 28) or on the anniversary of her death (November 8) and the birth & death of his son?  I will never know, but I would hope that he did think of them on those days. How sad to think not only of Ruth’s early death, but the death of her baby too.  Two lives that ended too soon.  So in honoring Ruth’s life, I am also honoring that of her baby boy too.