Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Family Traditions-Fact or Fiction?

The past week has been hectic around here. My kids were on Fall break for a week (why? I have no idea) and under foot. However during that time I was able to have a nice conversation with my grandfather and had some vital records come in the mail that I had sent away for. In between the demands from my two boys, my thoughts drifted to the family traditions, stories, and rumors. How much of it is fact and how much is fiction?

My great great grandmother Sallie Louise (Luttrell) Gunter was born in Missouri on 1 September 1875. She died at the ripe old age of 84 in Camarillo, California on 10 February 1960. My grandfather told me that in the later years of her life she was known in the family to be a little coo-coo and ended up in a mental hospital. Apparently when Sallie went to visit various family members pieces of silver would go missing. Yes, she was stealing the silverware. Fact or fiction? First I consider the source. In this case I consider it fairly reliable. My grandfather was an adult by this time and it was common talk in the family. So I wondered if I could get any supporting evidence for this story.

Last week I received Sallie's death certificate. It had some interesting and enlightening information. The usual information for birthdate and place was listed, along with address and parents' names (her father is listed as Hugh Lawson instead of Hugh Lawson Luttrell). The informant is listed as "Records of Camarillo State Hospital." Huh. I look down at cause of death (stomach cancer), and underneath where is says "Conditions contributing to death but not related..." is a very interesting statement, "Chronic Brain Syndrome Associated with Senile Brain Disease with Psychotic Reaction." Hhhmmmm.....that doesn't sound good. However given that disease and the informant being the state hospital, I'd say that this is some good supporting evidence. It's also a little sad.

Most likely I'll never be able to get a hold of the hospital records. Those are usually considered confidential and sealed. I'm also not sure it's really necessary given the information on the death certificate. Do I really need more details? What point would it prove? It's something to think about. Meanwhile, this is one family story that appears to be true.

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