Monday, February 8, 2016

Simmonds Disease

Ruby James Graham was the second wife of my second cousin once removed, Wallace Edward Dawson. Wallace married Ruby on 11 May 1940 in Lynchburg, Virginia. She was the daughter of Roosevelt T. Graham and Thelma G. Moon. The couple were married 13 years before Ruby died at the age of 33 on 19 July 1953 at the Lynchburg General Hospital. The cause of death was malnutrition and the contributing cause of death was Simmonds Disease of which I had never heard.

Ruby James (Graham) Dawson death certificate; image courtesy of

I learned that Simmonds disease is extreme and progressive emaciation, loss of body hair, and premature aging caused by atrophy or destruction of the anterior lobe of the pituitary. It is also called hypophyseal cachexia, pituitary cachexia.

The first known report of Simmonds disease was made by German physician Dr. Morris Simmonds. According to Wikipedia, "He described the condition on autopsy in a 46-year-old woman who had suffered severe puerperal fever (postpartum infections) eleven years earlier, and subsequently suffered amenorrhea, weakness, signs of rapid aging and anemia." By the early 21st century doctors had no problems recognizing the disease.

A study conducted in Spain measured the prevalence of Simmonds Disease and concluded that 45.5 out of 100,000 people had been diagnosed, with 4.2 new cases per year. Most often the disease was a result of pituitary gland tumors or other types of lesions. More recently, studies show that people who have suffered from traumatic brain injury or brain hemorrhages or had radiation therapy in the cranial region are more likely to experience persistent pituitary hormone deficiencies.

Simmonds Disease is a permanent condition; it cannot be cured, only managed. And it must be managed for a lifetime. Today sufferers may experience a normal lifespan something not available to Ruby in 1953.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Happy 3rd Anniversary to Me!

Tangled Roots and Trees is three years old today! I started the blog as a way to tell stories to my Dad to let him know that his love of genealogy and the research he did for many years continues. The audience has expanded a bit since then and I still enjoy telling family stories.

Image courtesy of

I define "ancestor" more broadly than most and will write about my own and those who belong to my sisters-in-law, nieces-in-law and cousins. I most frequently write about these families:

Created using

The most popular posts I wrote in 2015 were:
  1. (Guest Blog) A Star in Heaven: Chelsea Ann Tucker (1989-2015)
  2. Introducing the Slave Name Roll Project
  3. Social Security Applications and Claims Index
  4. Slaves of Harvey Claytor (1800-1871) of Franklin County, Virginia
  5. Cecelia's Big Secret?
  6. Last of the Covered Wagons: Duck and Cover
  7. The Onion Layers that Were Cecelia Dagutis
  8. In Celebration of Black History Month (or More DNA Discoveries)
  9. Professor Frederick Speece's Will
  10. Discovering My Local Family History Center
Perhaps, selfishly, the biggest news of the year was that I retired. (I'm Retired!) I now get to spend about 4 hours almost every day researching and writing about my extended family tree. I am also able to fulfill a promise I made to my mother before she died -- volunteer work, which I do with my DAR chapter. I also read to senior citizens in a couple of nursing homes.

In late 2014 I started what turned out to be an ambitious project -- a book about the descendants of Robert Muir (c1800-1869), my three times great grandfather and the one line on my father's side, he could not research very well as his great grandfather, James Muir, Robert's son, immigrated to the U.S. from Scotland in 1887. Dad did not have access to Scottish records at the time he was able to conduct his research. I promised I would write a book for him. That promise turned out to be a 8-volume opus! Two volumes are completed and available for download and I am now working on Volume VII: Descendants of James Muir (1848-1926). Only five more to go!

Covers of the Descendants of Robert Muir (c1800-1869)

The books and associated genealogy reports, including source citations, are available for download at: Robert Muir Family Blog/Books.

I also wrote a month-long series about the 19th Virginia Infantry regiment which fought for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. My great grandfather, Charles Edward Jennings, his brother, and three of his first cousins fought with the regiment. I am condensing the series now into an article for a magazine to be published later this year. You may find the series under the Civil War heading on my War Stories page.

On Veterans Day 2014 I began contributing to Heather Wilkinson Rojo's Honor Roll Project, which is an effort to photograph and transcribe the names of men and women who served in their country's armed forces in times of war so the names will be indexed by Internet search engines. I continued participating in 2015 and have several photographs and names to share for Memorial Day this year.

During Black History Month in February 2015, I began the Slave Name Roll Project, with five contributions. The objective is to record information about named slaves whenever and where ever they may be found so that African-American genealogists and family historians may break through the wall beyond the 1870 census. Documents such was wills and other probate records, bills of sale, court cases and newspaper advertisements for run-away slaves are often rich sources of information. Today, the project has over 310 contributions and continues to grow. If you have found a named slave in your research, I hope you will consider contributing.