Smallpox references in Roxburghshire, from my one-place study and personal family history

Reading a recent blog post by Emma Maxwell of Scottish Indexes re finding smallpox references in unusual places reminded me of some references to smallpox I’ve seen in my genealogical research.

Firstly from my Melrose one-place study the Melrose parish registers include a burial register from 1781 onwards which includes causes of death, including many cases of smallpox.

Melrose burials registerNames, addresses and ages at death are also given. The pre-1820 Melrose parish registers have been transcribed and indexed, and a PDF version of the resulting Scottish Record Society book is readily downloadable from archive.org. I intend to analyse these burial registers more fully soon as part of my one-place study, including analysing the causes of death as given.

I also have a nice reference to smallpox from my own family history. In his memoirs my distant uncle Andrew Usher (1782-1855) who founded the whisky distilling dynasty in Edinburgh recalled his smallpox inoculation, at his family home near Darnick:

I was born and brought up at Toftfield and the oldest circumstance I remember about that place is that when the doctor came to inoculate the family with the smallpox (vaccination had not then been discovered) as I thought it was something very painful I ran away. My father came after me and when in the act of taking me home his heart failed him and he said to himself ‘What if I should be leading the laddie to his death’ (for children so inoculated not infrequently died) and he set me at liberty again. I was, however, persuaded to go into the house and seeing what a simple matter it turned out to be, I presented my arm to the doctor. It so happened that I was very slightly affected while some of the rest were very ill. I had no fever and kept singing away as usual. One of the servants asked me how I could sing when the rest were so ill. My reply was that I would sing as long as I was able.

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About vivdunstan

Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan.
This entry was posted in health records and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Smallpox references in Roxburghshire, from my one-place study and personal family history

  1. vivdunstan says:

    Reblogged this on Melrose One-Place Study Blog and commented:

    Just blogged about references to smallpox in Roxburghshire records, and in particular in Melrose records. Both parish registers and memoirs of a childhood inoculation at Toftfield near Darnick, probably in the 1780s.

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