Confirming a Family Story: the 1929 Death of Merle Winford Campbell

Sometimes genealogists have trouble finding evidence that proves a family tale. Even if the tale began as a truthful one, snippets here and there eventually get altered, embellished, or even omitted as the story is passed from person to person, and generation to generation. Thus changing how the tale is received or perceived.

And sometimes, we keepers of the family history get lucky.

— Morley Cemetery at Scott County, Missouri*

Merle Winford Campbell was born 1 September 1927 in Vanduser, Scott County, Missouri to my great-grandparents Norma Ethel Robins (1906-2000) and Chester Wesley Campbell (1906-1994). He was their first-born child, coming almost eleven months after their marriage. Though Merle died before she was born, he was a brother of my grandmother, Betty Sue Campbell Lincecum (1934-2014).

Family lore stated simply that Merle died of an ear infection. Fortunately, I was able to find a death certificate to support this claim.

Mearl’s death certificate provides the cause of death as Mastoiditis. Medical News Today defines the condition this way:

Mastoiditis is a serious infection in the mastoid process, which is the hard, prominent bone just behind and under the ear. Ear infections that people fail to treat cause most cases of mastoiditis. The condition is rare but can become life-threatening without treatment.

Symptoms of mastoiditis include swelling behind the ear, pus coming out of the ear, throbbing pain, and difficulty hearing.

Ear infections that do not receive treatment, as well as antibiotic-resistant ear infections, sometimes spread. When this happens, the bacteria travel to surrounding structures, including bones such as the mastoid process.

Without antibiotic treatment, the bacteria can continue spreading to the bones of the skull. They may also travel to the blood and organs, including the brain.

Middle ear infections, which doctors call acute otitis media, and mastoiditis are most common in children younger than 2 years of age.

Norma’s and Chester’s second child Lynuel (d. 2008) was born one month after the death of Merle.

Visit Merle Winford Campbell’s page in the Lincecum Lineage database.

*Image by Graver Gal via FindAGrave memorial #29636238. Permission for use granted in bio.

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