52 Ancestors – #2 Melzena Kelly Ramsey, A Life of Loss

Melzena Kelly Ramsey, my great-grandmother, was one of the first “new” ancestors I discovered when I started climbing the family tree. Unlike Dad’s side, where my grandma told me the names of many of the ancestors, Mom’s side was pretty much unknown to us.

I first found Melzena in the 1910 census when I was looking for my grandfather, Ralph Ramsey. I didn’t yet have a copy of Grandpa’s birth or death record, but I did have access to the 1910 census of Perry County, Ohio — on microfilm at my local public library. (This was the days before the Internet took off. There were forums on CompuServe and message boards, but nothing approaching digitized records. Yes, I realize how old I sound now. Get off my lawn.) Grandpa was easy to find; he lived in Hopewell Township, Perry County his entire life. Two-year-old Ralph, listed as son of John Ramsey; Melzena was listed as John’s wife.

I remember thinking what a neat name — Melzena. It wasn’t the type of name I was expecting.

John Ramsey household (part),1910 U.S. census, Hopewell Twp, Perry County, Ohio, ED 128, sheet 5A. Note: the rest of the family is on sheet 5B.

John Ramsey household (part),1910 U.S. census, Hopewell Twp, Perry County, Ohio, ED 128, sheet 5A. Note: the rest of the family is on sheet 5B.

When you sift through the numbers and the plain facts, the census can show so much about a person. Melzena Ramsey, wife (of John), female, white, 45 years old, married once (M1), married 23 years. It was the next two columns that made me curious. 11. 5. I remember scrolling back up to the top of the page to see what those columns were for.

Mother of how many children: Number born. Number now living.

11 children born. 5 now living.

Melzena had lost six children.

Combing through the Perry County birth and death records, only four of the six have been identified:

  • Edward, born 6 March 1888, died 2 April 1888. Cause of death: “debility.”
  • unnamed son, aged 13 days, died 17 February 1889. No cause of death listed.
  • unnamed infant (sex not listed), aged 1 day, died 17 April 1891. No cause of death listed.
  • unnamed daughter, aged 15 days, died 14 July 1894. No cause of death listed.

The 1900 census also shows Melzena as having lost six children, so the remaining two must have died before then. Was there a child before Edward and maybe a child before the daughter they lost in 1894? The first child to survive to adulthood was their daughter Carrie, born in 1895. Maybe they lost a child between Carrie and Frank (b. 1898). We’ll likely never know.

I think of Melzena and the children she lost. Did she dote on Carrie and her other children as they grew older or was she distant, afraid to get attached?

In a cruel twist of fate, Melzena died 6 July 1914 at the age of 49. Her five surviving children ranged in age from 19 to 6. For so long, she was a childless mother; all too young, her sons and daughters became motherless children.

17 thoughts on “52 Ancestors – #2 Melzena Kelly Ramsey, A Life of Loss

  1. True!

    I’ve read 2 stories today including my own Mother. Sadness. We will continue to keep their Memory alive by writing about their History. I was Sad. Especially for the lost children and sometimes we can’t find them. Thanks for remembering them.

  2. Helen

    What suffering she must have gone through. So sad. The fact that we don’t know how she responded to her tragedies–by becoming a more distant mother or a more affectionate one– reminds me how important these stories are. Perhaps we should all take time to pen some character sketches of people in our families we’ve known. Helen

  3. Jana Last

    Such a sad story of loss. But, it’s so important that these little ones who died so young are remembered. I hope the two children that haven’t been found yet will be found some day.

  4. Magnus Sälgö

    Newbie question and thanks for sharing. How do you save a story like this? Do you add a story to your tree or do you have stories like this when you create a book that you binds?

    I feel it difficult to build a structure where you get more than facts about dates and instead get more stories into your family tree,,,,,, In Swede it is rather easy to find Church books until 1700 so you get a lot of facts but it is the stories and photos that are interesting,

    Thansk from Sweden

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      You can save it several ways. You can add it as a note or story to that person’s record in your genealogy software. You can also do that if you have a tree online somewhere. Writing it in a journal or typing and printing them out also works :)

      We don’t always have first-hand accounts of stories that happened. As you said, you get so far back and you’re left with just the facts. But if you look at those facts, you can sometimes pull out something about that person. That’s what I did with Melzena. I don’t have any family stories about her, even though she’s my great-grandmother. But I saw the clue in the census record that she lost 6 children. That’s when I started looking for what had happened and saw how much loss she went through.

  5. Wendy

    Too often I’m in a hurry to record the FACTS in the census. This is a good reminder to THINK about what those facts mean to my ancestors.

    1. Amy Johnson Crow Post author

      A lot of us are often in a hurry to record the facts. Slowing down and considering what they really mean is sometimes hard, but it can give us brand-new insights.

  6. Simon Bird

    Very sad how so many young children / babies died in those days. It was the same over here in England. I have a page on my website dedicated to service men who lost their lives in WW1 and WW2 and your post has given me the idea that I should have a page for the children / babies who died before they were old enough to have a story written about them. We have so many “Days” these days (Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Allsorts Day) perhaps we ought to have a “Day to remember all children who died before adulthood” ?

  7. Karen Seeman

    What a story! The grief that poor woman must have gone through… and you finding all of these puzzle pieces to put the story together. Those two simple numbers … 11 and 5…This is what makes genealogy so interesting. Any idea why Melzena died so young?

  8. Sue C

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I, too, have ancestors who lived with the loss of many children. How awful it must have been for them. Helps us understand them and their decisions.


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