The Lost Children

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This entry is part 16 of 16 in the series Brickwall Browns

While writing Black Sheffield, a social history of George and Ann Brown’s Sheffield home, I wrote about the high child mortality rate in the nineteenth century and, seeing some gaps between the ages of George and Ann’s children, I decided to search the burial records of the parish church of Sheffield. I found two previously unknown children for Ann and George; two little girls named Emma and Sarah Ann. Previously, I only knew of of the death of John Brown, their youngest known son, who they buried at the age of six.

Emma

Little Emma Brown was born about October 1833 and died on 5 April 1839 at the age of five and a half of consumption.

Emma Brown DC 1839
England, Certified Copy of an Entry of Death (long form), citing Sheffield Jun [quarter]1839, vol 22: 385, 1839; General Register Office, London, England. death of Emma Brown of consumption on 5 April 1839 at age 5-1/2 years.
Counting back five and a half years from the date of Emma’s death, I can estimate that she was born in early October of 1833, just days after George and Ann were married, which perhaps explains the young age of George and Ann when they married. Emma died of consumption, otherwise known as tuberculosis, the leading cause of death in Sheffield during the first half of 1839. From January to June, 184 Sheffield area residents lost their lives to the ravages of consumption, 126 died of whooping cough and 122 died of convulsions.

At the time of Emma’s death, the Brown family were living at 18 Cross Smithfield, a lane that ran off Smithfield, between Allen Street and Scotland Street.

Cross Smithfield

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann Brown was only a year and two months old when she died of hydrocephalus on 28 June 1846 at the Brown’s Garden Street home. Her father was present at her death and Sarah’s condition was noted to have been of 9 weeks duration.

Sarah Ann Brown DC 1846

Hydrocephalus was otherwise known as ‘water on the brain’ or ‘dropsy on the brain’ and is characterized by excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid that results in an abnormal widening of spaces in the brain called ventricles. In infants, it results in an increase in the head circumference, vomiting, sleepiness, irritability, downward deviation of the eyes and seizures.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke:

Hydrocephalus may be congenital or acquired. Congenital hydrocephalus is present at birth and may be caused by either events or influences that occur during fetal development, or genetic abnormalities. Acquired hydrocephalus develops at the time of birth or at some point afterward. This type of hydrocephalus can affect individuals of all ages and may be caused by injury or disease.

From John Cheyne’s 1814 “An essay on hydrocephalus acutus, or dropsy in the brain”, the following description is given:

In the first stage, every stimulus produces a sensation more than proportioned to its common effects. There is a great aversion to light and to sounds; there is watching, sickness, pain, a quick pulse. In the second stage, the child is not easily roused, his pupil is dilated, his pulse slow, he is lethargic and often an obstinately costive belly. In the third stage, which perhaps may be considered as a continuation of the second, there is squinting, rolling of the head, raving, stupor, convulsions, with a rapid thready pulse.

Lost Children

Three of George and Ann Brown’s children died before their sixth birthday, a higher than normal rate of child mortality. While discovering these two lost daughters of George and Ann Brown doesn’t bring me any closer to discovering their parentage, it does prove that there are records for the family I hadn’t uncovered yet which is encouraging.

Barbara J Starmans is a social historian, freelance writer and obsessed genealogist living in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada and has been doing genealogical research for the past 35 years. She is a graduate of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies in Toronto, Canada with professional learning certificates in General Methodology and in English Records and recently become an instructor for them with an intermediate course on Social History.

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