Saturday, December 31, 2011

Surname Saturday - William Thacker, the Last and the First

William Thacker's headstone, courtesy of
No, this post isn't about anything in the Bible. It's about something I came across while finishing up my review of the McFarland-Red Corn family documents. Yes, I have finally finished going through all the documents I have on my wife's family! Can't believe it took as long as it did, but I learned a lot about them in the process, and got to see a lot of new document types along the way. This week, I found myself looking at the last document (hence the "last" in the title of this post) - the death certificate for William Thacker, son of Samuel Thacker (my wife's 3rd-great-grandfather) and his second wife Nannie Roberts. He died at the age of 39, and was apparently married at the time (it lists Lucille Thacker, wife, as the informant). When I looked at the cause of death, it listed three causes. The primary cause was pulmonary embolus, which my medically-inclined family and friends told me means a clot in the lungs. There were also two secondary causes, which brought on the clot - the first was mesenteric thrombosis. Again turning to my friends and family who know about such things, this was another clot, this time in the arteries supplying the intestines. (As a side note, when asking your family and friends about mysterious medical terms, make sure you let them know up front where you got the terms. That way, no one will freak out thinking that you have these problems.) Both of these causes were likely brought on by the third cause - "gunshot wound abdomen".

I did a double-take when I read those words. Gunshot wound? Abdomen? I remember thinking "that doesn't sound like an accidental wound." That's when I noticed the entry in section 21A of the death certificate. Where the certificate asks whether the death was an accident, suicide, or homicide, it said homicide. William Thacker was murdered! It was an awful thing to read, and the first time I've ever encountered a murder in my genealogy research (hence the "first" in the title). Going through the rest of the death certificate, I saw that the gunshot happened on May 5, 1951, in a public place, but not at his work. He was taken (I'm sure he was in no condition to transport himself) to Knoxville General Hospital, where they discovered he had a perforated colon and liver. He died 8 days later, on May 13, 1951. He was also a veteran of World War II, as the death certificate gives what I assume is an enlistment date of March 2, 1944, and his headstone states he was a private. (The actual wording is "Tn Pvt 33 Sig Training WWII". Anyone with military knowledge care to translate this for me?) I find it tragically ironic that he survived World War II, and whatever dangers he may have encountered during his military service, only to be murdered back here in the States.

Unfortunately, that's all I know of the story so far. I haven't been able to find anything further on Google, Mocavo, Ancestry, FamilySearch, or Newspaper Archive, and I don't have time or means to get to an actual repository or library this weekend. I would assume there was a story in the newspaper about the event, but haven't been able to find one so far. I might try contacting the hospital, see if they have anything they can release to me (William died 60 years ago this past May, so hopefully that puts him past whatever statute of limitations they may have on records, if they have any remaining). I just find it very interesting that right as I'm about to finish up my work on my wife's family, at least for now, I stumble across probably the most interesting story of them all, and now feel compelled to get out there and find the rest of the story.

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