When I ordered the death certificate for Alice Sargent I had thought it possible that Alice had died as a result of childbirth as since she died two years after the birth of her sixth child at only twenty eight years of age. When I received the certificate I was surprised that her cause of death was from Smallpox.
Throughout my research into my family ancestry I had come across a wide range of diseases and illnesses: commonly consumption/tuberculosis, but also scarlet fever, diphtheria, dysentery, bronchitis, cancer, heart disease etc.
Alice Sargent died on the 10 June, 1888, but she was not the only member of my ancestry to die from the Smallpox virus. Four year old George Cooper was the fourth of eight people listed as dying from Smallpox in the parish of Lapley in 1851. He was buried on 3 April 1851. It is possible that George’s four year old cousin, Thomas Pye, also died from the disease as Thomas was buried on 15 August 1851. George Cooper and Thomas Pye were listed with their families as visiting their aunt, Mary Blewer, in Hyde Lea, on the 1851 census. The cousins may have contracted the virus when it was present in the county during that year.
According to Wikipedia Smallpox is an infectious disease caused by either of two virus variants localized in the small blood vessels. It is characterized by a rash and later by raised fluid-filled blisters. The more serious virus variant has a mortality rate of 30 to 35%. Smallpox was responsible for an estimated 300–500 million deaths during the 20th century.
Alice Sargent had married when she was seventeen years of age to Henry Sargent and they had six daughters; the eldest, Ann Maria, died at nine years of age in 1886 and Florence, the third child, had died as a baby. After Alice died her other daughters went to live with their grandparents – Bertha and Edith went to live with their paternal grandparents, Henry and Cecily Sargent and Alice, the youngest daughter was raised by her maternal grandmother, Hannah Small. According to the 1891 census, Hannah “Annie” the eldest daughter was living with her paternal aunt, Clara Lester.
What became of Alice’s husband, Henry, is unknown, as there were no records in the BMD indexes showing when he died and he does not appear in census records after 1881.