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Lives Cut Short

This week I found another one, another husband and father who died too soon.

My family tree seems sprinkled with men who died in their prime, leaving behind wives and children. Imagine the struggle these survivors faced without their breadwinners.

I have found these sad records wherever I have done research, from America to Norway and Finland. These stories will tug at your heart:

  • Henric Miettin (abt. 1804-1836). He lived in Halivaara, Kuopio, Finland and passed away at age 32 due to a fever. His widow Anna Toivain, left with at least four children who were not yet teenagers, soon remarried.
  • Anders Bentsen (1823-1857). Anders died at age 33 in Bø, Nordland, Norway, also from a fever. His wife, Anne Larsdatter, seemed unable to raise their two small children because both lived with other families after their father’s death. Anne eventually remarried.
  • Antti Abelson Mattila (1826-1882). Although perhaps not-so-young at 55 when he died in Viipuri, Finland from tuberculosis, Antti still had six children under 18 at the time. At least one daughter already suffered from tuberculosis, too, and the youngest child was just four years old. Antti’s widow Elisabeth Myllynen made her living by laying out the dead, taking her young son along with her on these jobs.
  • Owen Herbert Reed (1896-1935). At age 38, Herb died during the Depression in a vehicle accident near Brighton, Colorado. His 18-year-old daughter promptly left home to get married. His widow Grace and their five sons were forced to leave their family home in Wyoming and relocate to Colorado where a brother-in-law set them up in a house. All the boys immediately had to go to work, including my then-8-year-old father who helped deliver milk.

Since I descend from all these unfortunate men, I also descend from the widows facing the need to make a living, and from children who grew up without a parent. How did they ever keep going despite broken homes and hard times? It makes me sad every time I read of another ancestral family enduring this fate.

I feel so fortunate that it did not happen to me. I am able to visit my 87-year-old father regularly; I live happily with my husband; my children are grown. Life turned out better for me than it did for some of my ancestors.

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