Tuesday, February 24, 2015

52in52: Rachel Sipes Graves (1827-?) and Autoimmune Disorders


Home is actually a difficult topic for me. No, not because anything bad happened. But I'm under 40 years old and I've lived in:
-3 cities in Michigan
-3 cities in Indiana
-4 cities in Illinois
-3 cities in Minnesota
-2 cities in New York

That's 15 different places. Which one do I call "home"? My definition of home has become over the years to be wherever I feel a tie to, so that includes .

So when I saw this week's theme of "close to home", my mind did not immediately go to the location based home, but more so the ancestor that has captivated my heart for the longest time, because I think her story hits a connection to me very close to home.

When I started in genealogy, my purpose was two fold: one, it was because my grandmother gave me a list of her siblings and when they were born just before she passed on, and two, because I was diagnosed with type I diabetes at age 10, and the doctors were knee deep in a study that said type I diabetes was strongly inherited, and my family didn't know anything about how deep or shallow the diabetic connection was on either side of the family.

I researched quite a bit on each side of the family but found that the Graves family had a link to many, many autoimmune disorders that were carried down throughout the family. I just kept working back and working back, and finally I stumbled upon Rachel Sipes, who married Enoch Graves. Enoch is a hoot to research on his own (he has three different obituaries under three different names, none of which is Enoch!) but Rachel has really stolen my heart when it comes to research because of this:

1884 Census from the state of Michigan. Enoch and Rachel's family start with line 14. Click it and it will go full page.

"Line 15, Rachel, 56, female, white, wife, married, no, Canada, New York, Canada, House wife, ulcers on legs, no other infirmity, did not attend school within year, can not read or write, 12 years in Michigan"

Did you catch that part about "ulcers on legs"? Her son Hezekiah has the same infirmity. Before the discovery of insulin in 1921, untreated diabetics often died very young, and found their risk of loss of limb, ulcers, gangrene, stroke, heart attack and death were much, much higher than the normal population. I believe this is where the genetic mutations that have started the progression of diabetics, celiacs, sarcoidosis, LCMH, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, thyroid disorders, and severe psoriasis started. Not having listed these sorts of symptoms on previous records, my conclusion would be that she and her son Hezekiah/Heisikiah had one of these autoimmune conditions that were triggered as she got older.

I've had a lot of experience tracking this woman down. At first, we thought her last name was Shanks. A few hundred documents later, we've pretty much confirmed her name was Sipes. Due to a curious family document, Rachel Shanks was listed with two daughters, Susan and Mary Jane, who were adopted into the family. I had originally thought that she was the Rachael Sipes that married Peter Buckendale the Younger, one of the founding settlers of York, Ontario because she had two daughters listed on the document as . However, that Rachel died young, and the settlers pretty firmly believe that was what happened (though they did admit when I visited that it was possible she just disappeared, never to be found by Peter again).

Susan Buckendale's marriage certificate to James Innis. Is this Rachel my Rachel? 

Rachel captures my heart because of her tie to diabetes in the family, but she's also lived through multiple moves between different cities in Oxford County, Ontario, and Sanilac County, Michigan. And yet she's still a woman of mystery. We can't find a death for her. She's not recorded as being buried next to her daughter Rebecca or her husband in Mt. Zion Cemetery, though there's a disturbing amount of unmarked space around Rebecca's grave.

And then there's this:
"18 November 1846, page 79, Gore District marriage records of Rev. Robert Lindsay, Presbyterian Church: Thomas GRAVES, Waterloo, to Rachel SIPES, Blenheim. Wit: Thomas Linton, M. McRay."
There's two possibilities here: 1. Enoch uses a different name again, just like his obituary and it is their marriage. 2. Thomas is someone else, perhaps a cousin? He dies quickly, and Enoch marries his widow.

In either case, Rachel and Enoch had a prolific marriage that tied them to generations of family in Sanilac County, Michigan, parts of which are still there today.

Rachel and Enoch's children:
Mary Jane Buckendale Graves 1843 –
Susannah Buckendale Graves  1846 –
John Hazelton Graves  1851 – 1927
Hezekiah Graves  1851 – 1898
Marshall Graves  1855 – 1915
Sheldon Hall Graves  1857 – 1930
Daniel James Graves  1858 – 1916
William Graves  1862 –
Douglas Alexander Graves  1863 – 1919
Burley Graves  1864 –
Enoch Graves  1865 – 1935
Rebecca Graves  1866 – 1881
Charles Henry Graves  1871 – 1945

I know its probably a strange view of "close to home" for an ancestor that is still a bit of a mystery and for which I don't have a full picture. Yet she is always "close to home" because she is that ancestor whom I do have a interesting tie and she never fails to lead me to something interesting in my research no matter how many times that I pick her case up and put her back down. I've always got an ear out to see what I can learn about her and her situation in life.

If you want to learn more about the discovery of insulin, I highly recommend Janice Yuwiler's book:
Yuwiler, Janice M. Insulin. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2005. Print. Great Medical Discoveries. 
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