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Exploring Medical History

People from all walks of life decide to explore their Irish family history.  What motivates people like you to start this journey varies but can be; a general curiosity that turns into an obsession, a medical condition, to authenticate family stories or to document a family history before another generation passes on.

My genealogy journey started with trying to understand if a medical condition that was purported to be prevalent on my husbands side of the family – the weak Taylor heart – was true or not.  It all started quite innocently……

During a medical check-up with work, my husband John Taylor mentioned the weak heart story with the cardiologist.  John mentioned that his father, Michael Taylor died young at the age of 50 of a heart attack, and that his father, another Michael Taylor died of a heart attack at a young age and his father, again another Michael Taylor died young of the same condition.  The cardiologist was amazed that John hadn’t got lots of tests done, stents fitted etc – the cardiologist went into panic mode. So, not wanting my husband to die young or have open heart surgery by a scalpel happy cardiologist, my inner private detective streak came to the fore and I began my genealogy journey.

Note: The practice in the past in Ireland of naming the eldest son after the father and having a name passed down through families can be frustrating for genealogists.  I had three Michael Taylors to research which got very confusing at times.   Thank god that practice has changed.

The result of the research showed that this weak Taylor heart story was not true so the myth was busted as they say.

The results of my research showed that John’s father Michael Taylor died on the 9th March 1988 of a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) at the age of 52. We believe that his unhealthy diet and being very overweight contributed to this.

His father (John’s grandfather) Michael Taylor died on the 29th April 1956 aged 62.  Death certificate records Angina Pectoris (reduced blood flow to the heart / chest pain).  Picture above shows Michael Taylor (behind the girl in the communion dress) on his wedding to Annie O’Gorman (to the right of Michael) in Dublin on 26th July 1932.

And his father, Michael Taylor (John’s great grandfather) died on the 28th March 1923 aged 72 years.  His death certificate states ‘nephritis anascara asthenia’.  I believe this means nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys), anascara (swelling / build-up of fluid) and asthenia (physical weakness).

John’s grandfather and great grandfather were farriers / blacksmith’s in Portmarnock and Dublin City in the mid-late 1800s and early 1900s.  The Taylors and their in-laws, the Donnellys would have been well known in the Portmarnock area as they tended to the horses of the nearby Jameson Estate – of the famous Whiskey Family.  This estate is now Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links.

The life of a farrier was not an easy one.  Jeremiah Kemp, a farrier himself, noted

this is a job that requires the same attention to detail as an artist, the skill and steady hand of a surgeon, the patience of a saint, and the endurance/pain tolerance of a Navy Seal.

To live to the age of 62 and 72 years of age, if you consider the lifestyle, the physicality, the heat, the sweat, the noise, working morning noon and night and also taking into fact life expectancy of people in Ireland at the time I think they did well all the same.

Unfortunately, John’s father died young of the aforementioned and now myth busted weak heart, but we believe that this was an anomaly as opposed to an inherited weakness.  One of the benefits of genealogy is to be able to say to your doctor… this is my family medical history.  My father couldn’t understand why he developed Type 2 Diabetes in his 60s.  On investigation I found that his maternal grandfather William George Parkes, who died on the 14th January 1941, has ‘Diabetes Mellitus’, recorded on his death certificate.  Handy medical information to have…..

…. and this is now the obsession started !

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