This gravestone tells a story

alisandeNovember 15, 2012

And of course it's not a happy one, unfortunately.

Annie O'Neill was 38 when she died in 1866. She left these seven children (and possibly more--I don't know):

Ellen, 17

John, 14

Peter, 11

Michael, 9

Charles, 6

Teresa, 4

Katy, 2

Annie's husband, John, died 10 years later.

Those seven children all died young:

Ellen, 27

John, 21

Peter, 23

Michael, 20

Charles, 15

Teresa, 16

Katy, 14

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That's horrible.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 9:24PM
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I agree--and I see so much of this, although usually with much younger children, in the old cemeteries.

The world we live in is crazy in a lot of ways, but we're lucky to be living in it. In the years represented above, life was more fragile than we could ever imagine.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 9:36PM
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Very sad.

You have Charles listed as being 15 when he died, but reading the stone it looks like he died in 1885 at age 25. I wonder what Katy and Teresa died of in the same year. Also, if Ellen who appears to be married, wouldn't she have a stone separate from her family. Wonder if she had children.

Thanks for posting these pics, I find them fascinating.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 10:36PM
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where is the stone at? found yellow fever, in new orleans possible bird flu (italy)..if the family did any traveling?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 10:39PM
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So if Mother died in 1866 and Father in 1876, Charles, Katy and Theresa were still children when they were orphaned. I wonder who looked after Katy and Teresa? And why three died in 1878 (Peter, Katy and Teresa), wonder if it was at the same/ish time, if there was an accident or an epidemic. Gravestones always make me wonder about this kind of stuff....

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 10:43PM
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Maybe heart disease ran in the family.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 11:07PM
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The grave is in a Catholic cemetery in northeast PA. Lots of Irish names.

I, too, wondered who took care of the youngest children after the father died.

Matti, I see my arithmetic hasn't improved with age. :-)

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 11:19PM
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Like you, I am fascinated with gravestones. I always wonder what happened to the ones that die so young. This one really makes you think.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2012 at 11:54PM
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Disease, epidemics, and inherited weakness did cause mass deaths in families. Who took care of the children? After the mother died, father lived 10 more years. Traditionally, he was the bread winner for the family. He may have engaged a neighbor to help part time, or as was common at that time, the older children cared for the younger. When he died 10 yrs later, there were still children too young to fend for themselves. In farming communities, it was common for the church to step in to help and the underage kids would have been taken into neighboring homes. Some may have been adopted, but I have seen cases where a child was taken into another home without adoption procedures.

A prime example is that of Starling Hill who came to the Shelby precinct of Edwards Co. IL in 1829. He and his wife produced 16 children. In addition to these, they also reared 12 orphans!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 2:40AM
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Maybe the older children cared for the younger ones. I love looking at gravestones.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 8:26AM
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I dunno about the younger ones being all that "young" for that day and age. I'm betting they were all working by then or were able to work then. I can't even imagine what they went through. It's like my dad's mom. She helped raise sibilings after both of her parents died and then reared her five alone after her husband died. Guess it was commonplace back then.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 8:33AM
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Ellen died the same year as her father and John died three years before both of them. So much tragedy in one family.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 8:46AM
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Such a sad thing. Life was very tough in the old days. I know my own Grandmother had two young husbands die.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 9:37AM
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It was so common to die in childbirth. No anti-biotics surely exacerbated the health problems. Sad there are so many children's graves in these old cemeteries--I too love the stories they tell. I have a member of my family that died of "cat scratch fever" in the late 1800s. Something penicillin would have probably cured in later days.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 1:14PM
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Years ago, there was a PBS special in which people read from the diaries & letters of pioneer women, & one passage has stuck with me all these years.

It was from a letter a young wife/mother had written to one of her "back East" friends;
it was something like:

"The baby died. Mama always told me if I wanted to raise four, I'd have to bear eight."

& women died in droves, from childbirth/overwork/poor nutrition/disease.

My maternal grandmother died when my mother was 14.

The family never knew why she died, but she had been an invalid for several years, & her children at some point (much later) decided it must have been cancer.

Many years later, I learned that my mother's mother had been her father's third wife, & my mother & her siblings had been his third family.

The first family had died of scarlet fever & the second family had died in the flu epidemic.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 6:21PM
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I think her words will stay with me, too, Sylvia.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 7:09PM
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Here is the family in 1870. Sorry it's kind of long and strung out.. I copied and pasted it. The mother, Annie was gone by then...


Ellen Oneill

Age in 1870:


Birth Year:

abt 1849



Home in 1870:

Honesdale, Wayne, Pennsylvania





Post Office:


Value of real estate:

View image

Household Members:



John Oneill


Ellen Oneill


John Oneill


Peter Oneill


Michiel Oneill


Charles Oneill


Tressie Oneill


Kate Oneill


Annie Igo


Ann Igo


    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 10:58PM
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Wonder who Annie and Ann Igo were- cousins? servants?

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 11:10PM
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In 1860 the family is living in Honesdale, Wayne County, Pennsylvania
John was born in Ireland and his occupation is listed as a Merchant
Annie is listed as "Ann", born in New York
children in the household were
Ellen,John, Peter, Michael and Charles, all born in Almira
They had a domestic servant named Ellem (Ellen?) Kelley who was 18.
There were 3 other people living in the household, I suspect two of them were relatives, born in Ireland, the 3rd person was born in Germany.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 11:12PM
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I also do genealogy and almost no one ever raised all their children to adulthood. It was horrible. In a cemetery here in Bucks county is a row of headstones of the Loux children. Seven of them all died in a 2 week period during 1862 of diptheria. The parents survived as did the older sibling who was married and not living at home. The surviving sibling wrote the story of the family and the letter is preserved in the Bucks county Spruance library. I used a picture of the headstones when I taught student nurses about immunizations and what life was like before they were discovered.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 6:38AM
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Many years ago, I read a novel called "Mrs Mike", about a young woman who married a Mountie in the Canadian Arctic;
after she lost her 2 children to diptheria, she realized why women there referred to their "first family" & "second family".

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 7:05AM
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