Disproving family stories

Disproved family story 1.

My grandmother’s brother, her closest sibling in age, died of appendicitis.  It was actually meningitis and he died in the same epidemic which claimed the lives of a brother and a sister and almost took another brother and a niece.

Disproved family story 2.

May Payne (1895-1925)

May Payne (1895-1925)

Two other sisters – twins – were blue babies.  This medical term refers to a blueish tinge to the skin caused by either a congenital cyanotic heart defect or the ingestion of water with a high level of nitrate contamination.  One of the twins, Maude, died at three months of inflammation of the lungs so it’s possible that she had some sort of heart condition.  The other twin, May, died at the age of 29 of Bright’s Disease.  This was a term used to cover a variety of kidney diseases which are now referred to separately.


The death of May Payne, 1925

The death of May Payne, 1925







While I’m talking about historic medical terms, I would love to know what it was that the grandmother of these twins died of, a condition named as “tetere grave” on her death certificate.

 Disproved family story 3.

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

John Mulcahy (1849-1879)

My great-grandfather John Mulcahy died in a mining accident when a tiny rock fell down into the shaft and hit him on the head.  He did die in a mineshaft but his death was caused by him falling into the 40-foot shaft.  His death came two months after the death of his third son and the birth of his fourth.  The family story goes on to say that the third son, Donald, died of whooping cough and that his mother was also very ill.  That can’t be proven or disproved now because Donald’s death certificate is very short on detail.

The best story I’ve disproved so far involved a bushranger, a fire and a betrayal.

2 thoughts on “Disproving family stories

  1. I love the idea of taking a family story and either proving or disproving. In my family, I have a great great grandfather who supposedly died while running naked in Philadelphia in the middle of the night… in winter! Apparently he was drunk (which makes sense, I suppose…). I’ll have to track that story down! Nice job!


    • Hmmm, that does sound like an unlikely story. Newspaper archives have helped me a few times. I wonder if that story made the news! Thank you for your encouraging comments. Good story coming up in the next post.


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