July 19th, 2008

gebealogy, genealogy

A 1906 scandal: the dubious death of my great-uncle

In my genealogical surfings I have come across this account of the death of my grandfather's eldest brother, John Nicholas Whyte (1864-1906), which I knew from family lore had been quite a scandal at the time. Bizarrely enough it comes from the archives of a New Zealand paper, the Hawera and Normanby Star, from July and August 1906.

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The case was sufficiently visible to give rise to a parliamentary question and debate in the columns of the New York Times; clearly there were competing narratives of a moral panic about Christian Science cultists, and a unjustified witch-hunt against a retired doctor who was following his patient's instructions. (I am quite sure that my great-grandmother was contributing to the first of these.)

Major Whyte was not married and (as far as we know) left no children; I am puzzled however by this street bearing his name on the northern edge of São Paolo, Brazil, but perhaps it is someone else!