April 4, 2010
There is no doubt genealogical research into our pasts discloses strange, unusual, bizarre and even funny findings. Those new to research are sometimes shocked at what they find hidden among the records. Seasoned researchers become accustomed to finding ‘skeletons,’ and may or may not report their ‘find’ to their friends or relatives. I consider myself a veteran researcher, but I must admit I was unprepared for what Nancy Hansen found at the FHC while reading page 100 of the microfilm of the Annals of Georgia, FHL #082313. She asked me to come up and look, promising me that it would be interesting. She was right! Not only was it interesting, it was shocking! I had never encountered anything like this before! It was in the middle of the page, nestled among the ordinary death entries for Chatham County. That one item caused quite a stir among the researchers. So much so, that I thought I would pass it along to you.
The death entry began in the standard format used for all the other entries: date; the name of the deceased; age; residence; marital status; cause of death; and residence at the time of death. What followed was the shocker! Here it is in its entirety.
“25 May 1815: Mary Ann Tudor, age 22. Island of Barbadoes (sic). Spinster. Died of seasickness at residence of Mr. Nath. Lewis on Drayton Street. The body was put in rum on the 12 of June and conveyed to Brig Eagle, Capt. Gilbert, for Barbadoes (sic), under management of her brother Henry Tudor, who accompanied the remains.”
That one entry certainly raised many questions. One question is whether they removed it from the rum barrel and buried it in the ground. Alternatively, would they bury the barrel with her body in it?
Marion S. Campbell, Jr. of Plano sent a response relating to another instance using rum to preserve a body. Here is the story told to Campbell by his grandfather.
“The story goes that late in the War of 1812, a man identified as British General Sir Edward Pakenham had been killed at New Orleans, and his body had been shipped back to England, preserved in a keg of rum. A shipping mix-up there in London, had sent the keg back to Tyre Ford’s Store and Tavern in Rossville, South Carolina. The discovery of the keg’s contents was made when a group of celebrating veterans, who had just returned from the Battle of New Orleans (01-08-1815), were investigating why a new, seemingly full, keg of Rum would suddenly run dry, and the discovery of finding the General’s pickled body inside, was a sobering experience. It is said that the General was then buried out back, sitting in the up-right position in the remainder of this “spiritual” Tomb.”
I did Google this bazaar use of rum as a preservation fluid and found on Wikipedia a legend relating to Horatio Nelson’s death after the Battle of Trafalgar. Legend has it that his men placed his body in a keg of rum to preserve it so they could take it back home for burial in England on the HMS Victory. The story continues that while in route to England the thirsty sailors put a tiny hole in the keg and drank the rum through a straw. It seems that when the keg was opened they found it empty of rum. Rum is often described to as “Nelson’s Blood” and the term “Tapping the Admiral” describing the daily rum ration. This is disputed by Admiral Nelson’s historians, as is the story that Alexander the Great’s body was placed in a gold casket and preserved in honey for his long trip home for burial.
I doubt any of these stories to be true; therefore, they remain legends. Until we learn more about this practice, rum anyone?
LEGACY FAMILY TREE USER GROUP: Come bring your laptop or thumb drive to the novice session come and go gathering scheduled Thursday, April 15, 1-5 p.m. in the Genealogy Library at W. O. Haggard Library. Joanne Corney can use your thumb drive on her computer if you do not have a laptop. Do you need help with a census, baptism or death certificate? Please bring your sources. Contact Joanne at firstname.lastname@example.org. Free.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunions announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.