Learning about a life through death
Sometimes you can find out about someone's life from their death.
Andrew Freckelton, son of William Freckelton and Martha Galloway, was my first cousin, twice removed - in other words he was the first cousin of my grandfather James McClung. He was born 2 Apr 1877 in Keady, Armagh, much like a lot of the McClungs and Frickletons/Freckeltons. In the 1901 census he was visiting his aunt Margaret McClung (née Frickleton, my great grandmother) in Keswick street in Belfast. So not only was he my grandfather's first cousin, but he would have known him. After 1901 he disappeared from the Irish records.
But his death recently appeared in the Minnesota indexes that have been recorded and uploaded to Ancestry. It intrigued me that he would end up in Minnesota so I ordered a copy of his death certificate thinking that it might perhaps give me a clue. Unfortunately it didn't provide any next of kin information which might have helped, but it did give a glimpse into his life.
He died 22 May 1916 at the age of 39 in the Minneapolis City Hospital. He was single and had been in Minneapolis for 8 years, which places his emigration around 1908. I'm sure he probably emigrated, as did most of our family, in the hopes of finding a better life. Perhaps he did in the early years, but sadly that wasn't the case when he died.
His occupation was listed as day labourer, so essentially he took what work he could find and there would have been no guarantee he had a job on any given day. His place of residence before entering hospital on 12 May was a municipal lodging house. These houses were places where homeless men could find a bed overnight and hopefully somewhere to bathe. Often their clothing was fumigated when they arrived. There may have been a small fee or perhaps some work required in exchange for lodging. He wouldn't really have lived there since the occupants were required to leave during the day and could come back only at night.
What is probably most telling is his cause of death - tuberculosis and chronic pulmonary syphilis*. Illnesses like those would have made working very difficult, particularly as they became advanced. With nothing to fall back on and no family, his only option for shelter would have been the lodging house or some similar charity, even if he hadn't been living there before.
The death certificate also lists information about burial or removal from the hospital. In fact he wasn't buried, at least not right away. The location is "University" which would suggest that his body was sent for medical research. So it would seem there was no one to claim his remains. Any burial that might have taken place subsequently would have been anonymous at best.
A rather sad end. I wonder if his brothers or his aunts and cousins ever knew what happened to him - or did he just disappear.
*From what I've read, a diagnosis of pulmonary syphilis would have been very difficult and generally found only through post mortem examination, so that may be an inappropriate cause to include immediately after death.
Brian Rodgers - September 24, 2010
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