Gratitude for Health

H2020One of the most important things we can be grateful for is the gift of good health. Not everyone is so fortunate, but my DNA health inheritance has been predominantly healthy. Those health issues which I have had to deal with have been responsive to good medical care – how very grateful we can be in Australia to have an excellent health system. It may have some glitches, but it’s available to everyone – another source for gratitude.

I’ll tell you what I’m grateful for, and that’s the clarity of understanding that the most important things in life are health, family and friends, and the time to spend on them. Kenneth Branagh, Irish actor.


Health is the hot topic of the moment as the world responds to the covid-19 pandemic. With a collaborative political strategy and increasingly, a sound community response, Australia seems to be flattening the curve, touch wood. One of the sacrifices we’re making is forfeiting gatherings with family and friends – what a “knees up” we’ll have when it’s all over.

All of which evokes the influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, also called the “Spanish flu”. Of course I looked at my own ancestors to see how they were affected.

Ancestors and the “Spanish flu”

McSherry hospital Hughenden
Hughenden Notes. (1919, June 18). The Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld. : 1874 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved April 9, 2020, from

Two of my women ancestors died during this period but because of their age, it’s hard to be sure whether the Spanish flu had been a factor. Mary O’Brien Kunkel died at the Fifteen Mile in January 1919 and the cause of death on her certificate was “old age”.  Mary was about 83 years old and she had not seen a doctor.

Hannah Partridge nee Kent died in Ipswich on 13 December 1918 of acute pneumonia which she’d had for four days. The doctor had seen her on 12 December but it’s possible that the diagnosis was general. Hannah was 82 years old.

Thanks again to Trove, I learned that my great-grandparents’ railway house in Hughenden was used as Infection Ward 1 during the Spanish flu. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to follow the story forward to learn any more, such as where Peter and Mary McSherry lived during this period, surely not in the Isolation Hospital?  In the image below I suspect the higher house might be the one referred to as Mr McSherry’s house ie the #1 Infection Ward because of other references that it was near the shunting yards. When the world returns to normal again, I really need to prioritise seeing what I might discover in the Queensland State Archives about the hospital and the ward.

Hughenden railway yards
Handwritten on back: “H’den Historical Society // Railway Yard // Hughenden // No. [164] V75 // 1938 // Taken from the Royal // Hotel verandah // Dist. Supt. House in background // (high one) // Aussie Hotel right at back // Con. Bianchi” Sourced through
Cause of death and longevity

Health is the soul that animates all the enjoyments of life, which fade and are tasteless without it. Lucius Annaeus, Seneca, Roman statesman.

Helen Smith of Dragon Genealogy always emphasises the benefits of doing a health chart for your ancestors with causes of death and the person’s age. Have you ever done one for your family? I wrote mine up a while ago and you can read my blog post here. I’m pretty lucky to have a heavy weighting of longevity in my tree, so I’m not quite ready to be an expendable elderly or “vintage” casualty of covid-19.

Have you been fortunate with your health inheritance?

Longevity percentage

Health chart Dads line

12 thoughts on “Gratitude for Health

  1. I like the graph, nice healthy old age there 🙂 Diagnoses 1918/1919 one has to suspect the flu. One of Greg’s great uncles died November 1918. He had been gassed and then died of either pneumonia or the flu, the doctors seemed to be in 2 minds.


  2. I like the graph idea!
    My cousin asked me about ancestor health because her athletic son was suddenly having heart issues. I told her all the men in the family line died young of heart failure of some kind. She told his doctor who immediately did other tests to find he has a hereditary disease called Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which can be fatal! Her other kids were tested and her other son has it worse. I wrote a post about it and heard from a distant cousin I didn’t know about… she said her doctor thought she and her son may have it but were reluctant to diagnose it because no one else in her family had it. Now they can get proper treatment.
    My dad and his brothers were the first of that line to live into their 80s and 90s


  3. With tennis centers, convention centers, cathedrals and parks being pressed into C19 service here in New York City, it’s easy to understand how your great grandparents’ railway house could be pressed into service. A fascinating discovery that will make an interesting story when you research it.


  4. Another very thoughtful post, Pauleen – and so topical. I am very grateful for my own health, my family, for our lovely house and for where we live. Your graph is an interesting idea – my parents both lived to the age of 91, and my gggg grandfather reached the age of 84 when he died in 1821. So let’s hope that stands me in good stead – there is much I want to do with my life!So you gave us a valuable lesson on “counting our blessings”.


  5. I like the idea of creating a family health chart. For the most part I’ve been fortunate in my own health, although I have experienced a few problems that “run” in my family lines. I know, generally, what I have to watch out for health-wise – genetically speaking – but looking at longevity and known causes/ages of death would be an enlightening exercise.


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