Elizabeth – 52 Ancestors Challenge 2015 : Week 33

This week’s 52 Ancestors Challenge from Amy Crow Johnson is Defective, Dependent and Delinquent. There was a special census schedule in 1880 looking for Defective, Dependent and Delinquent individuals. I looked for someone in the 1880 census but found no one with that marked off. I did however, find someone in the 1860 census. The heading for that census was for people who were considered: deaf, dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict. This is a little about Elizabeth Shelby.

Elizabeth Shelby was born around 1844 in Kentucky to Alfred M. Shelby and Elvira Reed. She was the youngest of 10 children: Louisa, Washington, John ( my 3x great grandfather), Alfred, Isabella, Alvira, Auralia, Napoleon, and Orvil. Elizabeth is listed on the 1850 census with all of her family where she is 6 years old.

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1860 census

By the 1860 census, she is listed as being 15 years old living with her father, a sister Mariah (who I believe is Louisa), a brother, Orville and someone I haven’t figured out yet, Elizabeth Burnett – 5 years old. Next to Elizabeth Shelby are the words: Dumb of epileptic fits. Over the ages, people with epilepsy were considered bewitched and were treated poorly. Some were put into asylums and in Marshall, Missouri not too far from the Shelby family, there was a colony for feeble minded and epileptic people. Unfortunately, there were no treatments for epilepsy until around the 1850s when they started using Bromide. Did Elizabeth get to take this? From what I can tell, she was from a family that had money and could most likely afford to give her the best treatment available at the time.

I don’t know what happened to Elizabeth after this census. She is not on the 1870 census and I have found no record of her death. Did her family continue to take care of her until her death or was she taken to an asylum? Her mother died in 1856 and her father died in 1880. There is a family cemetery in Kentucky and someday I hope to find out if Elizabeth is there.


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