Thursday, May 2, 2013

About That Heart Trouble…

Finding the confirmation of what we all knew had surely happened—the passing of Maud Woodworth Bean—led to yet more questions. No surprise here; genealogy research is likely to do that.

In the comments to yesterday’s post, reader Mariann wondered “if this ‘heart trouble’ has any connection with the Marfan syndrome you've been researching,” and then questioned whether the syndrome was linked to the Woodworth or Bean family.

A little recap of the family constellation may be in order here. Of course, the Woodworth line we’ve just spent the last few weeks zooming in on found its latest iteration—as far as the generations go—in Maud, her siblings Nieva, Helen and Lucius, and their cousins in California, Wisconsin and Michigan.

When Maud married Samuel W. Bean, she unwittingly introduced a specific gene into their children's lineage, a gene which contained a detrimental tendency that she had no possible way to realize. Sam and Maud's two surviving children—Sammie Junior and Earle Raymond—subsequently succumbed to heart ailments, themselves, in early adulthood. However, at the time of their passing, their physicians were able to diagnose the cause of their heart trouble, which prompted a mad scramble to provide preventive medical care for the one in the next generation—Earle’s son Greg—who was already showing symptoms of the syndrome.

So, in answer to Mariann’s question—Woodworth or Bean?—the response is actually: “Both!”

With the marriage of Sam and Maud, the Bean line now carried the syndrome, but we’re fairly certain the entrance of the gene came from Maud’s Woodworth line. We’ve already read some stories that have telltale signs of the syndrome from past generations of Woodworths. Those whom I’ve known of the next generation of the Woodworth line—Maud's brother Lucius’ other sons—have dealt with Marfan syndrome, too. And I’ve found even more stories in online newspaper archives providing hints that others in the Woodworth family may have succumbed to the disease before it was widely recognized in medical circles. Take a look at this short article on the front page of the January 24, 1930, Covina Argus about Lucius and Margaret Frizell Woodworth’s eldest son:
Death of little Gene Woodworth, two-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Lucius E. Woodworth, occurred in Beaumont Tuesday morning, following an illness which lasted all his life.
Would an early death like this have been caused by Marfan syndrome? Hard to say at this point; medical professionals were not likely equipped to determine such a diagnosis at that time in 1930.

Of course, knowing the reason for Maud's "heart trouble" would have been of no consolation to a grieving husband and family. At the time of Maud’s passing, her oldest son, Sammie junior, was almost twelve. His younger brother, Earle, was about to turn seven. And their blind and deaf father, Sam, had lost not only his heart’s companion, but the business and traveling partner who was his second set of eyes and ears.

We’ll take some time in the next couple days to revisit Sam Bean and learn the rest of his story.


  1. The similarity of Maud's and Helen's last hours is chilling. Now I'm wondering if any of the Woodworths exhibited the other symptoms such as being unusually tall.

    1. Wendy, the only Woodworths that I knew personally were indeed tall. They were all sons of Lucius, Maud's brother. I'm reminded of the photograph I call "The Belt Buckle Picture." It's a shot of Lucius' petite wife standing with her sons--her head seemingly even with their belt buckles, thanks to their Marfan-related height.

  2. Hmm... You need to be on a CSI episode based on genealogical medicine!

    Jacqi "Smokin' Gun" Tapestry - how's that for a character name?

    1. Funny! Actually, Iggy, I couldn't handle the suspense...

  3. I'm certainly glad that medicine has advanced -- that's my first reaction. How terrible that so many family members were brought down by this syndrome. You mentioned that you first went into genealogy to find medical history, I believe. Does this signify that someone in your family might have inherited this tendency? Can they test for this tendency with DNA -- or perhaps you have already done that?

    Such a dramatic series of early deaths. Tragic.

    1. Mariann, I'm sure at this point that people can trace this genetic tendency through DNA testing...but the point at which I left the scene of this family history story was nearly thirty years ago, so my knowledge of Marfan syndrome is not up to date. Unfortunately, everyone in that particular family line has either succumbed to Marfan syndrome, or died relatively young for other reasons, so there is no one immediately associated with that line left to test--the sad legacy of this syndrome, at least for past generations. I hope medical developments are changing that prospect for current and future generations.

      While I did begin researching and writing this series based on a desire to trace this syndrome down through the family lines, it is only my motivation in studying the Bean and Woodworth lines. Long before that point, I started genealogical research on those many other family lines just for personal curiosity. I like to say I was born wanting to know about my family history...

  4. Both sides of that family a double whammy:(


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