Tag Archives: Great Aunt

Did Great Aunt Celia Die From the Spanish Flu?

31 Oct

With the Covid pandemic in its second year, I decided to write about my Grandfather’s younger sister who died over 101 years ago.

As I have written in other blogs, much about my paternal grandfather’s family was a mystery.  My Grandmother told me that my Grandfather was the oldest of 6 children, I now know that his mother actually gave birth to 11 children. I now also know that eight siblings that survived to adulthood and that my Grandfather was the second oldest of these eight.  

I know a bit about his one brother (See blog below) and I actually knew one of his five sisters.  (see blog below.) Three sisters and brother I know their names and perhaps some information, but it nothing definite.  I know Muriel married and had two children.  And I know there were two ‘maiden’ aunts.   I know Samuel supposedly went west in the early 1900’s.  But there was one sister that I had absolutely no information about his younger sister Celia.  I did not even have her name, as Celia died before my grandparents became engaged and married.

But now I know Celia.  Born on the Fourth of July in 1895, Celia was five years younger than my grandfather.   But whereas my grandfather lived until he was 95, Celia died when she was just 24 years old on February 6, 1920, from pulmonary edema and pneumonia, which was a major cause of death from the Spanish Flu.

According to Wikipedia, the Spanish Flu continued from February 1918 to April of 1920.  And the CDC website that discusses the Spanish flu has this information: 

“The 1918 influenza pandemic was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is not universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide during 1918-1919.  In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in spring 1918.

It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide with about 675,000 occurring in the United States. Mortality was high in people younger than 5 years old, 20-40 years old, and 65 years and older. The high mortality in healthy people, including those in the 20-40 year age group, was a unique feature of this pandemic.”  (The bold high lights are mine.)

By the winter of 1920, the Spanish flu had begun to ebb.  But people were still dying.  One of the symptoms was lungs filling with fluid, pulmonary edema, which killed them.   Was Celia one of the victims of this pandemic?  I might never know, but with the Covid pandemic on my mind, I cannot help but think it was the Spanish Flu that killed my great aunt Celia.  Sadly, a few months after she died the pandemic was officially over. 

Celia is buried in the old Montefiore Cemetery in New York.  She is in the Adath Israel of B’ville section.  I do not think any other members of our family are buried there, or at least any that I have found so far.   Most are buried in Washington Cemetery.  The fact that she is there alone saddens me.

I have not been able to find a picture of her grave online. But I do have the information needed to find it.  I hope one day that I will.  In the meantime, I wonder if my Great Aunt Celia was one of the millions of people who died during the Spanish Flu.  In my heart the answer is yes.

Update: I now have Celia’s Headstone. See the additional Blog for more information.

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm