October Ancestry Challenge – Ora Alice Blanks Bates

oct ancestry challenge-001The October Ancestry Challenge 2013 – 23 posts/23 days/23 ancestors.

Week three!

Ancestor # 12 – Ora Alice Blanks Bates




ora blanks batesOra Alice was my great grandmother’s, Annie Blanks Culpepper’s, little sister. (Annie was my Ancestor #1.) I found Ora a few years ago while researching on Ancestry. She married Shellie Houston Bates and had four children. Shortly after this photo was taken in 1916, with her holding baby William Leonard, he died and she never recovered from the lost. She died three months later. She was 28.

blanks ora blanks shellie bates family 1917






As I looked at the photo, I felt so bad for the little girl in the middle. Her name was Mary Louise. It broke my heart that she had lost her mother at such a young age, and I couldn’t get it out of my head that her mother may have committed suicide or overdosed. I don’t know what doctors gave grieving people back in 1917, but I imagine they didn’t know any more about mental health than they know now.

In my search, I found an Ancestry contributor who seemed to know a lot about the family, so I contacted her, and she was kind enough to send me information. It turns out she is my cousin, and all of these photographs are from her personal collection.

After the baby’s death, Mr. Bates moved his wife from Mississippi to Alabama for a change of scenery, but Ora did not improve. According to her death certificate, she died of “acute melancholia” and the contributing factor was “convulsions.” In my mind, I bet those convulsions were cause by some sort of medication.

I now had answers about Ora, but was still upset about the sweet little girl in the picture. I contacted the woman from Ancestry again and told her that the family photo was haunting me. She wrote me back and said it all turned out okay, as she was the little girl’s granddaughter. That made my spirits rise considerably.

Little Mary Louise grew up with her aunt (her father’s sister). She married and had children and lived to a ripe old age.

blanks bates marie louise bates and grandmother martha carpenter blanksHere is a picture of her as a teenager around 1930 with her maternal grandmother – my great great grandmother Martha Lettie “Mattie” Carpenter Blanks, who I mentioned in my Ancestor #10 post.

I have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that the little girl in that first picture is holding my great great grandmother in this picture. It seems strange to me when my worlds collide like that.

7 responses to “October Ancestry Challenge – Ora Alice Blanks Bates

  1. What an interesting story, Lori. I’m glad you were able to get more information. I agree with you that she probably overdosed on something being given her for the depression. If she hadn’t died, they might have put her away in an insane asylum. That was done quite often with women suffering from depression, post partum depression, and more.

    • I’ve searched for medicines and treatments 1910-1920, but haven’t come up with anything concrete. I can imagine how bad an asylum would be. Besides the little girl, I was also concerned for Ora’s mother. The poor woman lost her dad in the Civil War when she was fourteen – along with at least sixteen other family members to war and typhoid that year, including her grandparents and her baby brother. She then lost her only son when he was five, and now lost her grandson, and three months later lost her daughter. That woman knew loss. We just don’t know how good we have it.

  2. Wonderful story. I have discovered so much loss in my brief time researching my family. It has given me a new perspective on family tragedies, and the strength of the survivors.

  3. Pingback: 52 Ancestors #12 William Henry Blanks (plural) | a day in the life of patootie

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