I’ve said before that it’s amazing how much one can learn by thoroughly examining a genealogy record in your possession. If your like me, the documents themselves aren’t enough.
Another case in point is my recent examination of the death record of my great-great grandfather Anton Liska. I’ve had a copy of this death certificate for many years but due to the “genealogy do-over” project which encourages researchers to re-evaluate their sources, I have discovered not only a family story, but another resource for finding the death records of elusive Cook County ancestors.
Anton Liska died on January 21, 1905 at the Cook County Infirmary at Dunning. At the time of his death, the conditions at the Dunning Poorhouse, Infirmary and Asylum had attracted the attention of the press who were demanding that the Cook County Board of Supervisors do something about the deplorable conditions at Dunning.
According to the Cook County Board Proceedings of 1905, there were “many things that can be done to greatly improve the situation”. One of the suggestions was the removal of the Cook County Infirmary from the Dunning grounds due to the fact that admittance to the Infirmary gave the impression that the patients were confined to the “Poor House”. This was especially true to “tuberculosis patients who are reluctant to enter the institution at Dunning until necessity compels them”. [Cook County Board Proceedings. 1905-1906. p13]
Looking closely at Anton Liska’s death certificate we can see that he spent 6 months and 11 days in the Infirmary with the cause of death being Tuberculosis of the Lungs.
An outcome of the Chicago Tribune’s attention to the conditions at Dunning was the Cook County Board’s appointment of Dr. V.H. Podstata as general superintendent.
Thanks to the University of Michigan, researchers can now read Dr. Podstata’s monthly reports to the County Board in the Official Proceedings of the Board of Commissioners of Cook County, Illinois. The reports are an accurate accounting of the monthly population of patients, hospital expenditures, and the final disposition of bodies from the Cook County Hospital for the Insane, the Cook County Hospital for Consumptives and the Cook County Infirmary.
And for those of us who research our family’s stories, it is this listing of the final disposition of bodies that connects us to this place and time. It allows us not to just see our ancestors name on a government report, but rather it allows us a more thorough glimpse at the individuals who he came in contact with during his last days on earth.
Anton died on Saturday, January 21st, 1905 at the age of 47. His body was delivered to Josef J. Liska, his brother, six days later on January 27, 1905. His funeral was held the following day at 11:00 a.m. with burial at the Bohemian National Cemetery. His obituary, alluding to the broken heart of his family members, appeared in the Denni Hlasatel on January 27, 1905.