Causes of Death Definitions

The information on this page was originally part of the Genealogical Society of Page County (GSPC) website. GSPC was dissolved in 2005. Permission has been granted for use by Teresa Kelley


apoplexy - hemorrhage of a blood vessel in the brain; a sudden loss of sensation; a stroke

bilious fever - excess bile accompanied by high fever and vomiting; sometimes jaundice was part of the cause; symptoms usually included headaches, furred tongue, and pain in the joints; quinine was considered the preferred remedy

brain fever - meningitis, inflammation of membranes of the brain or spinal chord

Bright's disease - also known as albuminuria, essential nephritis, kidney disease; a progressive, degenerative disease of the kidney characterized by drpsy of the upper and lower parts of the body; ranked high as a cause of death during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries

cholera infantum - also known as cholera morbus, infantile diarrhea, summer complaint; a disease of infants and young children characterized by vomitting, severe diarrhea, and fever; was of short duration and death frequently occurred within three to five days; was common among the poor and hand fed infants and was found frequently in summer and early autumn

chronic - a catchall term for any disease of slow progress, long duration, or frequent recurrence

congestion of the brain - sunstroke

consumption - pulmonary tuberculosis; a progressive wasting away of body tissue, particularly by the disease called phthisis pulmonalia; it was thought to be inherited at one time

croup - (1) inflammation of the larynx, especially in infants, with noticeable periods of difficult breathing, hoarse cough, and laryngitis; (2) a disease known scientifically as acute obstructive laryngitis, diphtheria, or occasionally strep throat

dropsey - edema; excessive buildup of clear fluid in body tissues or cavities; frequently included edema of the heart area; usually both sleeping and breathing were difficult

dyspepsia - indigestion; impairment to digestion caused by ulcer, gall bladder disease or inflamed colon; symptoms include weakness, loss of appetite, and depression

enteritis - inflammation of the intestine, mainly the small intestine; this condition has been attributed to many causes including teething, a sudden drop in temperature, poor environment and neurosis

erysipelas - also known as Saint Anthony's Fire; caused by a strep infection which causes an inflammation of the skin and is accompanied by sore limbs, sore throat and tenderness of the glands; bruised cranberries applied to the affected area were sometimes used as a remedy

gravel - a deposit of small calculous concretions (stones) in the kidneys and bladder

jaundice - a condition caused by an obstruction of bile and characterized by yellowness of the skin, fluids, and tissues, constipation, loss of appetite, and weakness

membranous croup - also known as diphtheritic croup, laryngeal diphtheria; an acute contagious disease preceded by diphtheria of the throat and/or nose characterized by severe breathing problems due to thick, obstructive covering on the membranes of the throat and/or nose

pleurisy - an inflamed pleura (membrane lining of the throat between the lungs and abdomen) characterized by fever, painful and difficult breathing, and a short dry cough

scrofula - a disease call the King's Evil, characterized by tumors in the glands of the neck; tuberculosis of lymph glands; it was thought that a king's touch could cure the disease, thus its name

spotted fever - cerebrospinal meningitis fever, characterized by inflammation of the cerebra-spinal meningitis; see also typhus

summer complaint - also seen as summer disease, summer diarrhea; diarrhea caused by contaminated food; found especially in children and was most common in hot weather

thrush - a fungal disease usually contracted by children and characterized by milky-white lesions on the membranes of the mouth, lips, and throat

tuberculosis - a communicable disease caused by infection with tubercle bacillus characterized by toxicity of the lungs

typhus - a severe disease remarkable with its high fever, delirium, stupor, intense headaches, deep red rash; it was transmitted to man by lice

worms - parasites; Hookworms originated in Africa and were brought to America with slaves. treatment included wormwood tea, oatmeal, and male ferns