A life consumed

The ‘White Plague’, ‘Consumption’, ‘T.B’, Tuberculosis.

If you’ve been researching your family tree, you’re bound to have stumbled across some of these phrases as causes of death (i’d only not seen the ‘white plague’ term before, but I’ve seen the others too many times).

Although it wasn’t notifiable until 1912, Tuberculosis was probably the cause of one-third of disease caused deaths in the nineteenth century. That’s quite a claim.

Environments with poor ventilation, overcrowding and people with poor nutrition (including the drinking of infected cows milk) were all susceptible to the disease. However, improvements in housing and nutrition halved the number of deaths by the end of the century.

Within my own family, I have found cases where it has claimed my ancestor’s lives: a 35yr old Henry Bowers of Wicken, leaving his young wife with a hungry family of eight young children; two children both under the age of 1 year of James and Mary Martin of Little Downham – (another daughter died aged 9yrs from Scarlet Fever, and James himself was killed by a train not far from his house).

If you’re interested in reading more about poverty and disease (such a jolly topic i know!), i recommend getting hold of a copy of Rosemary Rees’ Poverty and Public Health : 1815-1948 (Heinemann Advanced History S.)

More on Tuberculosis at Wikipedia

New season of Littleport Society meetings announced.

I’ve just received the latest edition of The Littleport Society magazine, so thought i’d share the event info with you that covers the next few months. I’ve been a member of the society for years now and they are exceptionally helpful.


  • 1st September: Alan Litshel – “Bottles 1870-1920”
  • 6th October: Hilary Ritchie – “History of nursing at Addenbrookes Hospital”
  • 3rd November: Malcolm Gaskill – “The Devil in Cambridgeshire – the witch hunting campaign 1645-1647”
  • 1st December : Iain Harvey – Christmas organ concert (in St George’s Church)


  • 5th January: Tessa West – ‘Companion to Owls – life of a Huguenot family in the fens in the 1600s’
  • 2nd February: AGM and member’s short talks
  • 2nd March: Gordon Easton – ‘Growing up in the fens – a humble tiller of the soil’
  • 6th April: Bill Wittering – History of the Royal Mail
  • 4th May: Peter Carter – The Last of the Eel Catchers
  • 1st June: Gerald Siviour – East Anglia Railways – the last 50 years.
  • 6th July: Mike Petty – ‘Fenland History on your computer – the library on your laptop’

All meetings are held on the first Tuesday of each month (except for August when there are no meetings) at 7.30pm at the Village Hall, Victoria Street, Littleport, Cambridgeshire. Non-members are welcome.

Please note that events/talks are subject to change.

The Mystery and The Monkey

James Martin (1851-1934), originally uploaded by familytreeuk.

The December issue of the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine features my photograph in their ‘Over To You’ section (page 36).

I’m pleased to see it in print – it’s such an interesting/amusing photograph – showing a real mixture of characters. There appears to be four railwaymen (like my Great Great Grandfather, James Martin who appears at the top of the photo with the monkey on his shoulders), but also some sailors too (their hats read ‘Albert’).

I think that the photo was taken in 1887. My reasons for this are that this was the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee (hence ‘Albert’ on the hats) and the jumpers of the ‘sailors’ appear to have “RTYC” (Royal Thames Yacht Club?) embroidered on them and they raced in 1887…..

“Ocean races officially organised by clubs were unknown until 1887. That was the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, and a race ‘the like of which had never been known in the annals of yacht racing’ was announced by the Royal Thames Yacht Club over a course of 1,520 nautical miles round the British Isles. Later meetings at the Albemarle Street Club House refferred to this event as the Jubilee Yacht Race.” – Royal Thames Yacht Club history

I also think that my Gt Gt Grandfather looks like he’s in his thirties.

I’m amused by the ‘dwarves/smurfs’ at the front of the photo and also of the very scary looking ‘black beard’ pirate character lurking towards the back.

Who were they? What was going on? When was this? Where was it taken?

Hopefully the magazine will throw up some answers in the show’s web forums.