Monday, February 24, 2014

52 Ancestors: #8 ~ Anna Christopherson's Unexpected Cause of Death

This is part of the "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" Challenge begun by Amy Johnson Crow, author of the blog No Story Too Small.

On November 2, 2013, I shared my Death Causes Pedigree Chart here on my blog. It shows the causes of death for several of my ancestors. Unfortunately, at the time I shared this chart, I couldn't fill out each ancestor's cause of death. Instead I had to put the word "Unknown" in place of a cause of death for five ancestors on the chart. Since sharing the chart, I've received death certificates for three of these five ancestors.

One of these ancestors with an "Unknown" on the chart was my paternal great-grandmother, Anna Christopherson. Here is a photo of Anna.

Anna (Christopherson) Iverson

I ordered and received her death certificate not too long ago. I'm going to share Anna's death certificate with you today. But, before I do that, let me tell you a little bit about her. She was one of the children born to Ole Anthon Christopherson and Aslaug Nilsdatter. Ole's name may sound familiar to my regular readers. I recently shared a blog post about him in which I wondered if he was a Sea Captain in Norway.

The photo of Anna (above) was found in one of my Grandma Ingrid Gillberg's Books of Remembrance. It's a group picture with lots of other people in it.

Anna was born on 10 October 1875 in Swift county in Minnesota. She married my paternal great-grandfather, Christopher Iverson, sometime before 1892. They were the parents of seven children.

Christopher and Anna's Children -

  1. Christian Julius Iverson (1892-1948)
  2. Hannah Mabel Iverson (1894-1994)
  3. Lillian Emelia Iverson (1898-?)
  4. Lawrence Nicholas Iverson (1900-1964)
  5. Susan Wilma Iverson (1902-1963)
  6. Arthur Harry Iverson (1910-1942) [my grandfather]
  7. Adellard Wallace Iverson (1913-1988)

As you can see from this list of children, the seventh child was born the same year that Anna passed away. In fact, Anna passed away when Adellard was only eleven days old. Before I received Anna's death certificate, I wondered if she had passed away due to complications of childbirth. I was surprised at Anna's actual cause of death. It wasn't what I was expecting.

So, just what did cause Anna's death? Here is her death certificate.

Anna Christopherson's Death Certificate

The stated cause of Anna's death was an "Embolus of heart." The duration was "quick." And the contributory (secondary) cause was "*eperal state." So, she died due to a blood clot in her heart. I can't make out the first word for the contributory cause. Here's a close-up view of the contributory cause. If you have any ideas about what that first word is, I'd sure love to hear them.

Anna Christopherson's Death Certificate

Anna passed away on 4 June 1913 in Torning, Swift, Minnesota. She was only 37 years old. How devastating Anna's death must have been for my great-grandfather, Christopher, and their children. Their two oldest children were adults at the time of Anna's death. But the five youngest children were about 15 years old on down. And the youngest child was not even two weeks old yet. My own grandfather, Arthur Harry Iverson, who was the second youngest child in the family, had just turned three years old when his mother, Anna, passed away.

Christopher must have had to be so strong to carry on after Anna's death. He somehow had to work for a living and still care for his children. Perhaps the two oldest children helped as much as they could. The oldest daughter, Hannah, was already married and had her first child one month after her mother's death.

As far as I know, Anna's husband, Christopher, never remarried. He passed away in 1925, twelve years after Anna's death.

UPDATE: Thanks to Judy G. Russell, author of The Legal Genealogist blog, the mystery of Anna's contributory cause of death has been solved. According to Judy, the word I was having a difficult time deciphering is "puerperal." The Merriam-Webster online dictionary has the following definition for puerperal.

: of, relating to, or occurring during childbirth or the period immediately following1

It looks like Anna's death was due to complications of childbirth after all. Thank you Judy for solving this mystery for me.

Thanks for reading!


© 2014 Copyright by Jana Last, All Rights Reserved

1 "Puerperal." Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2014. .


  1. At that time the ladies may have been lying in bed for a time and that immobility could cause blood clots.

    1. HI Claudia,

      Thank you so much for your comment. Yes, I can see how that could have caused blood clots. What a tragic outcome this was for Christopher and his family.

  2. How sad for her husband, newborn, and the other children. My grandmother died a few weeks after giving birth to my father and his twin (but had a different cause of death). Glad you solved the mystery of the word. We don't see puerperal used very often these days.

    1. Hi Nancy,

      How tragic for your father and the family! Yes, we don't see the word puerperal very often these days. And, that's a good thing, isn't it? Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Jan it is Prerenal Kidney Disease

    1. Thank you for your thoughts on this Gwen. I do think puerperal is the correct word in the death certificate, however. Thank you for stopping by! I appreciate it!

  4. What an incredibly touching story.... What makes it such a stand out is the fact your great-grandfather never remarried. To me, that shows true love. It tells you a lot about his character. Not only was Christopher a devoted husband but I bet he also was a terrific dad!

    1. Hi David,

      Thank you for your kind comments! Yes, it does appear that Christopher was a devoted husband. Anna's death must have been so very heartbreaking for him. Thank you for stopping by! I really appreciate it!

  5. It's funny how cause of death is listed on death certificates. The most immediate cause is first even when the "contributing" cause seems like it should be THE cause.

  6. My 3rd great grandmother died 6 days after giving birth to my 2nd great grandmother. It breaks my heart. My 3rd great grandfather remarried just a few months later, I'm assuming to have someone to help him raise his 4 daughters. They went on to have 5 more children and were married for 40 years. And during that time he was off serving in the Civil War. It's amazing the stories we learn about our ancestors.

    1. Wow! Your story about your 3rd great-grandmother is a heartbreaking one as well. And as you said, it really is amazing to learn about our ancestors' lives. It certainly helps us appreciate all they went through. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. It looks like a slight misspelling of Puerperal State to me, like in puerperal fever that used to kill so many women after childbirth. This is from Rudy's List of Archaic Medical Terms-- the puerperal state, usually about the third day after childbirth,

    1. Thank you Ellie! I agree with you. It does look like Puerperal State. Thanks for stopping by! =)




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