My next question: going through the microfilms of parish records, I often
find that at the end of winter (Feb-Mar) there will be a heart-breaking
number of kids listed as dying of "hydrops". When I mentioned this to a
distant relative (two of her mother's siblings had died of it, the same
month as my grandfather's sister), she said she had some memory of her
mother mentioning it, thought her mom said it was either diphtheria or
scarlet fever; they buried the first child and came home from the funeral
to find the second one had died.
So I'm trying to figure out exactly what "hydrops" is. There's a web site
that gives modern English equivalents of these terms, and it says it's
edema. Well, I can see that for adults, but not necessarily the kids. A
web search finally gave me hydrops as Fifth disease, which is still today a
very contagious, rashy disease that makes the rounds of preschools, but
I've never heard of anyone dying of it (but then, we all got measles in my
generation, but none of us died of it--yet a couple of generations earlier
it was a cause of childhood death).
Could it be Fifth disease, complicated by cold weather/poor winter
nutrition? Would they even be distinguishing between Fifth disease and
measles or chicken pox? (There were no causes of death that I saw that
would translate to either.) Or could it be scarlet fever after all--does
that show up and wipe out a person that fast? The web site said the term
for scarlet fever was "scarlatina", but I never saw that term in any of
these records. Or is it a catch-all term for all of the above?!
I've ruled out the diptheria my relative mentioned, because there is
another term in these records for that; also someone once told me (don't
know if it's so) that diptheria tends to be a hot weather disease--strikes
around August, at least here in New England.
Anyone have any more solid info than my guesses?
Thanks, and sorry for the long post!