Pneumonia in Detroit: The Death of 20 Day Old Anna Pawlowski (1918)

Documenting the lives of children who died is an important role of the family historian. I find this to especially be the case for children whose whose lives only spanned the years in between censuses. Unless there is good family documentation, sometimes these children are missed and unfortunately left out of the family tree.

This was the case with my great aunt Anna Pawlowski (1918-1918). Born on May 19, 1918 she would tragically lose her life only 20 days later. According to her death certificate she suffered from acute bronchitis that lead to bronchial pneumonia.

Anna Pawlowski - 1918

Anna Pawlowski - 1918

Anna was the 8th of 10 children born to my great grandparents, Adam Pawlowski (1879-1959) and Marianna Grzeskowiak Pawlowski (1879-1941). In all, Adam and Marianna would endure the loss of three of their children, including Anna.

You read about their older daughter here: Three Year Old Franciszka Pawlowska (1913-1915) Dies of Diphtheria in Detroit. Their 10th child, Michael Pawlowski (1921-1921), lived for only one day because of a congenital malformation of his heart.

Anna was the Pawlowski sibling born directly after my grandmother, Claire Pawlowski Halvangis (1916-1980).

Interestingly, though she was much older at the time, Anna’s mother (Marianna) also lost a younger sibling to pneumonia. I wrote about her here: Pneumonia in Detroit: Franciszka "Frances" Grzeskowiak (1886-1905).

It appears that the rise of pneumonia in 1918 had a lot to do with the influenza epidemic. Here is an article in the Detroit Free Press about one month before Anna died.

Though Anna’s death certificate does not indicate that she had the flu, it seems quite possible, likely even, that it may have been a contributing factor. Both conditions can lead to pneumonia. They can also coexist, making accurate diagnosis difficult.

Some of you more medically minded folks can help explain the differences and similarities between these various conditions. Here is a good article I found about it.

My grandmother, Claire, would have been too young to remember anything about the death of Anna. It is likely, however, that Claire was impacted indirectly by the grief and mourning her parents and older siblings probably experienced.

  • How did the loss of Anna impact the Pawlowskis’ mother’s mental health?

  • What about her emotional well being and availability to her children?

  • How did their father respond?

  • What stories were told, if any, about Anna’s short life in the years that followed?

  • How, if at all, would Anna be remembered?

Those are the sorts of questions I often think about when trying to put together a family history — one that goes beyond just dates and places and gets to the emotional heart of the story.

Are you interested in telling some of your own family stories? Maybe I can help! Read more about a Consult With The Psychogenealogist to find out.

Related Posts: Childhood Death