Thursday, December 22, 2016

Baby Rapp and Bobbie Lee

Between my birthday and Christmas money, I was able to reactivate my Ancestry.com subscription. Since then, I've been poking around and clicking on links, trying to create my family tree with new information.  

I just found a death certificate that blew my mind.  

Actually, I found two death certificates that blew my mind.  

The first one, I discovered when I was tracing my husband's line backwards.  While investigating his grandparents' family, I found a death certificate reading simply, "Baby Rapp."  

I had not known, until that moment, that the first child of my husband's grandparents was a stillborn son.  No name except "Baby Rapp."  No record except on a death certificate issued by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, file number 44012.  Date of death, April 9, 1927; time of death, 9:30 a.m., cause of death "stillborn (at term)".  In other words, Baby Rapp was a full-term boy that was born sleeping.  He was buried two days later.  

My mother-in-law was born the next year, the first of four living children.

The other death certificate rewrote a small portion of my own family history.

You see, I'd been under the impression that my maternal grandparents had had a daughter who was stillborn or died right after birth.  I don't know if my grandmother had told me she'd died at birth or exactly how she'd told me the story, but that was how I remembered it.

This morning, while looking up my grandmother's information, I found a link to a Billie Lee Chitwood's death certificate.  I wondered if that was actually Bobbie Lee Chitwood, because this particular daughter was named for my grandmother's father, Robert Lee Thompson.

So, I clicked on the link and found a death certificate, issued by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, State Board of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, File No. 27041, Because of the handwriting on the death certificate, "Bobbie Lee" was probably misread as "Billie Lee" when it was transcribed for the Ancestry.com site.

Her date of death was November 13, 1935, around 10:30 p.m.  Cause of death: gastro-enteritis.  Age: Three months, 12 days old.

She didn't die at birth, like I'd always thought.  Instead, she lived with her family from August 1, 1935, until November 13.  And she died of a disease that would probably be easier to treat today but that, in rural Kentucky in 1935, was probably harder to deal with.

My mother was born two years later.  Then, my uncle.  

So now I know that the second child in my grandmother's family was Bobbie Lee, and she died before my mother was even conceived.  And not only did she die, she lived for a little while.  And then, around November 5th, she got sick.  A Dr. Bailey first saw her on November 8th.  Five days later, she was dead.

How do you go on after losing a child?

I now know that my husband's grandparents, and my grandparents, faced that question.  And somehow, they went on.  Because they went on, my mother and my husband's mother were both born.

I find it fascinating how death and life intersect, how just one moment, one decision made, one unforseeable circumstance can change a person's life in ways we can never, ever forsee.

Had Baby Rapp not been born sleeping, his parents probably would not have conceived my mother-in-law.  If Bobbie Lee hadn't died when she did, it's possible that her parents wouldn't have conceived my mother.  It takes one particular egg, one sperm cell, and one particular moment in time to make a child.

So, in reading the account of Baby Rapp and Bobbie Lee, and thinking about when they were born and when they died, I find myself asking the question:  Would my mother and mother-in-law have been born if these two babies had not died?

If they hadn't . . . I probably wouldn't be here writing this.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.

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