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New Family History Book

Danish Governess

Danish Great-grandmother (1885)

Here, author offers a peek inside Family History (1860-1950) of a Doctor’s Daughter. Preview includes the table of contents, preface, and the entire first chapter. First chapter tells the story of the author’s Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Dutch immigrant ancestors and what their lives were like in Europe before they came. Also included is a general history of immigration to the U.S. during the mid-19th century.  For example, author discusses the effect of potatoes, land reform, and smallpox vaccination on European emigration.  Lots of pictures…   Author cites reference sources for her material (84 citations for the first chapter alone!).

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Impact of Tuberculosis on Families

Author Diana Walstad delves into the impact of TB on her ancestors in Family History (1860-1950) of a Doctor’s Daughter.  She explains their behavior in terms of societal attitudes that prevailed at the time.  For example, before people knew that TB was contagious and not an inherited frailty, her great-grandmother sometimes put the kids in bed with their feverish, tubercular father to keep them warm on cold nights.  Prior to 1930, many people believed that TB generated immunity, perhaps explaining why the author’s grandfather saw no risk in marrying a woman from a tubercular family.  He may have thought that she–now a robust adult–had acquired immunity.  She hadn’t.  After she died of TB, he repeated the same mistake with his second wife.

The book fleshes out the personal tragedies with history.  It begins with Robert Koch’s discovery (1882) of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and ends with Gerhard Domagk, a bacteriologist who risked his life during World War II to bring forth the drug isoniazid, now a cornerstone of TB chemotherapy.  The book documents the struggle and ultimate victory of America’s health care community in rooting out TB from the general population.  It was no small achievement.