I am a genealogist that is also trying to solve a family mystery. I
have been searching for the course a devestating neurological illness has
taken through my ancestors. The illness is known as HUNTINGTON'S DISEASE,
and many of you may have heard of it. However, up 'til the mid twentieth
century it was a very unknown or misundertstood illness. Many of its'
victims were shut away in insane asylums, or simply left in misery or
squalor. Since I am a genealogist, not a doctor I will leave it to you to
discover the medical aspect. I am particularly concerned with finding
connections of HD to my family, but I'm also interested in hearing how
others have approached researching a genetic or inherited disease.
My SHEPARD/SHEPPARD/SHEPHERD, etc. family came to Indiana via Kentucky.
They descend from GEORGE SHEPHERD (B. 7 OCT 1716)of SPOTSYLVANIA VA, through
his grandson ANDREW SHEPHERD (b.about 1785 Reddies River NC) who had at
least twenty children with three wives (BARBARY PHILLIPS, PHEBE MASTIN,
NANCY CUNNINGHAM) the first two having died young. I have included a list of
those children at the end of this post*.
One son of Andrew, CALVIN SHEPARD (b.13 MAR 182) married NANCY McHENRY
(b. 3 MAY 1822) in Wayne Co. KY on 27 FEB 1839. They emigrated to Indiana
at some point in the 1850's. Calvin died of what his grandson described
as"general prostration"on 10 JAN 1861 leaving wife Nancy and surving
children PRESTON W. SHEPARD (b. 5 DEC 1841), JAMES ALFORD SHEPARD (b. 5 OCT
1846), ANDREW SHEPARD (b. 4 SEPT 1851), JOHN "JESS"McHENRY SHEPARD (B.4 OCT
1859),RICE W. SHEPARD (b. 17 FEB 1855), DELPHIA SHEPARD (b.15 APR 1857), and
SARAH EMILY LANCE SHEPARD (b. 5DEC 1841). For a time Nancy took her
children to live in Missouri near her relatives, but returned to Spurgeon IN
shortly after. She later married (Unknown) TAYLOR.
JAMES ALFORD SHEPARD became a merchant in Spurgeon for many years. He
married CAROLINE McCLEARY (or McCLARY) (b. 30 MAY 1853). He and his family
seem to have been very close to his brother P.W. SHEPARD and family. Their
brother Andrew died before reaching the age of 30. James Alford Shepard had
several children, many of whom died in infancy and are buried in the Spugeon
Cemetary. JAMES ALFORD SHEPARD died 6 FEB 1908. He too is buried in the
Spurgeon Cemetary, though later records indicate he died in an asylum or
mental hospital elsewhere in Indiana.
Of the surviving children I am pricipally interested in VIOLA SHEPARD
(b.18 MAR 1869) who later married (Unknown) WEBB, JAMES LUCIUS SHEPARD
(1882-1967) and my greatgrandfather JOHN N. SHEPARD (sometimes JOHN D.
SHEPARD) (b.1874 d. about 1925).
JOHN SHEPARD married CORA DELL MASON (b.) of OAKLAND CITY IN. I know
that for a time my greatgrandfather taught at the LEACH SCHOOL in Oakland
City. The couple had two surviving sons, CARL MASON SHEPARD (b.19 FEB 1900)
and FLOYD DAVID SHEPARD who was the only living brother of a twin birth on
13 FEB 1903. They may have moved to Kansas before the death of JOHN
SHEPARD, but I can not find the evidence to support this. I do know that
his widow, Cora, re-married in Norton KS and that my grandfather Floyd maet
my grandmother there.
Somewhere, Huntington's Disease, a debilitating illness of the nervous
system, was introduced into this line of Shepards. I think the most likely
possibility is that one of the wives of ANDREW SHEPARD was ill. It is still
unclear who the mother of CALVIN SHEPARD is, and two of Andrew Shepard's
wives died young, but I do not know their reasons. It is possible that
Calvin Shepard inherited this illness from his mother and died before
symptoms of his illness appeared; or that his family were unaware of or
hiding the nature of his illness. In those days having an illness of this
sort was thought of as shameful.
At any rate I do know that his son JAMES ALFORD had this illness, and that
my greatgrandfather, grandfather and mother and sister also became ill.
Thank god I do not have this disease, and has not been transferred to
another generation! But I do have a keen interest to discover the genesis
of Huntington's Disease in my ancestors, and am especially interested in
what became of those poor souls who suffered in the days before modern
medicine and humane treatment of the ill. If you have any knowledge of ANY
of the individuals or circumstances of this post please contact me at this
list or at my email address. I will share all information I have.
Dennis R. White
dennybop2 at home.com
* Children of ANDREW SHEPARD and NANCY CUNNINGHAM; DELPHIA, CALVIN?
Children of ANDREW SHEPARD and PHEOBE MASTIN; JOHN, SALLY SARAH, ALFRED,
LEWIS, JAMES MASTIN, SHELTON, PHEBE, THOMAS, CALVIN?
Children of ANDREW SHEPARD and BARBARY PHILLIPS; PRESTON, IRENE, OLIVIA,
FRANKLIN, TALITHA, DELPHA, MARTHA ANN, PLEASANT, MILTON, MINERVA, CALVIN?