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.
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.