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It Runs in Families

This year I am focusing my research on my third great-grandparents, Thomas Reed (1783-1852) and Ann Kirkham (1782-1869). They were among the original settlers in Coles County, Illinois in 1829.

One of their closest neighboring families, the McAlisters, settled there about the same time. The eldest two of the Reed children married McAlister siblings.

Healthwise, these marriages did not turn out well. The McAlister family had a pattern of early death:

  1. Robertson Reed (1808-1871) married Nancy McAlister (1815-1853). This couple had five known children before Nancy died at age 37. All but one of their children died young, too, including Daniel at age 23, Nancy Jane at age 34, William Fred at age 30, and Mary E. at age 19. Nancy Jane was the only child from this marriage to wed, but both her children died in infancy. Robertson and Nancy (McAlister) Reed have no descendants.
  2. Eliza Reed (1810-1886) married John Mitchell McAlister (1812-1836). The had one daughter before he passed away around the age of 24. The daughter Susan Ann (1835-1856), along with her only child, died from complications of childbirth when Susan was 20 years old. Eliza (Reed) and John McAlister have no descendants.

These Reed siblings who married into the McAlister family experienced much heartache. Robertson Reed lost his wife and outlived his oldest son. Several of his other children died about the same time he did. Eliza Reed McAlister witnessed the deaths of both a young husband and their daughter.

Both Robertson and Eliza remarried after the deaths of their first spouses. Their second marriages produced more children who lived long lives.

And what of the McAlisters? I have not done much research on this family. Their name does not survive in Coles County. Perhaps they died out, or maybe the surviving family members moved away.

The Reeds and the McAlisters had become fast friends when they first settled in Illinois. They must have had high hopes when their children joined in marriage. Those dreams were dashed when the McAlister grandchildren did not survive. Death at a young age stalked their family.

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