American Epidemics

Genealogical research often involves a detailed search for people who disappear from local records or migrate to parts unknown. This list of mostly American epidemics may help in finding the cause.

1657 Boston, MA Measles
1687 Boston, MA Measles
1690 New York Yellow Fever
1713 Boston, MA Measles
1729 Boston, MA Measles
1732-3 Worldwide Influenza
1738 South Carolina Smallpox
1739-40 Boston, MA Measles
1747 CT, NY, PA, SC Measles
1759 N. America Measles: areas inhabited by white people
1761 N. America and West Indies Influenza
1772 N. America Measles
1775 N. America Unknown epidemic: especially hard in NE
1775-6 Worldwide Influenza: one of the worst epidemics
1780 Boston, MA Yellow Fever: the first outbreak in the US, more than 400 deaths
1783 Dover, DE “Extremely fatal” bilious disorder
1788 Philadelphia and New York Measles
1793 Vermont A “putrid” fever and Influenza
1793 Virginia Influenza: killed 500 in 5 counties in 4 weeks
1793 Philadelphia, PA Yellow Fever: 4,544 deaths
1793 Harrisburg, PA Many unexplained deaths
1793 Middletown, PA Many unexplained deaths
1794 Philadelphia, PA Yellow Fever
1794 Baltimore, MD Yellow Fever: 360 deaths
1796 New Orleans, LA Yellow Fever
1796-7 Philadelphia, PA Yellow Fever
1797 Baltimore, MD Yellow Fever: 154 deaths
1798 Philadelphia, PA Yellow Fever: 3,645 death
1798 New York Yellow Fever: 2,086 deaths
1798 Boston, MA Yellow Fever: 145 deaths
1800 Baltimore, MD Yellow Fever: 1,187 deaths
1803 New York Yellow Fever
1817 Charleston, SC Yellow Fever: 274 deaths
1819 New Orleans, LA Yellow Fever: 3,000 deaths
1819 Mobile, AL Yellow Fever: 294 deaths
1819 Baltimore, MD Yellow Fever: 250 deaths
1819 Natchez, Miss Yellow Fever: 250 deaths
1819 Baton Rouge, LA Yellow Fever: 200 deaths
1819 Charleston, SC Yellow Fever: 180 deaths
1819 Savannah, GA Yellow Fever: 150 deaths
1819 Boston, MA Yellow Fever: 32 deaths
1820-3 Nationwide “Fever” – started Schuylkill River and spread
1820 New York, NY Yellow Fever: 150 deaths
1820 Baltimore, MD Yellow Fever: 85 deaths
1820 Philadelphia, PA Yellow Fever: 45 deaths
1820 Middleton, CT Yellow Fever: 28 deaths
1821 Norfolk, VA Yellow Fever: 160 deaths
1821 Wilmington, NC Yellow Fever: 55 deaths
1822 New York, NY Yellow Fever: 37 deaths
1822 New Orleans, LA Yellow Fever
1831-2 Nationwide Asiatic Cholera: brought by English emigrants
1832 NY City and other major cities Cholera
1832 New Orleans, LA Asiatic Cholera: over 1,000 deaths
1832 Ayrshire towns of Stevenston, Dalry, and Kilbride Cholera
1833 Columbus, OH Cholera
1834 New York City Cholera
1837 Philadelphia, PA Typhus
1837 Great Plains Smallpox
1841 Nationwide Yellow Fever: especially severe in the south
1847 New Orleans, LA Yellow Fever: 3,359 deaths
1847-8 Worldwide Influenza
1848-9 North America Cholera
1849 New York Cholera
1849-50 New Orleans, LA Cholera: 3,000 deaths
1850 Nationwide Yellow Fever
1850 Alabama, New York Cholera
1850-1 North America Influenza
1851 Coles Co., IL, The Great Plains, and Missouri Cholera
1852 Nationwide Yellow Fever
1853 New Orleans, LA Yellow Fever: 8,101 deaths
1853 Mobile, AL Yellow Fever: 1,191 deaths
1853 Vicksburg, MS Yellow Fever: 500 deaths
1853 Lake Providence, LA. Yellow Fever: 165 deaths
1853 Philadelphia, PA Yellow Fever: 128 deaths
1853 Jackson, MS Yellow Fever: 112 deaths
1854 New Orleans, LA Yellow Fever: 2,423 deaths
1855 Nationwide Yellow Fever
1855 Norfolk and Portsmouth, VA Yellow Fever: 4,602 deaths
1855 New Orleans, LA Yellow Fever: 2,670 deaths
1857-9 Worldwide Influenza: one of the greatest epidemics
1858 New Orleans, LA Yellow Fever: 4,845 deaths
1860-1 Pennsylvania Smallpox
1865-73 Philadelphia, NY, Boston, New Orleans, Baltimore, Memphis, Washington DC Smallpox, a series of recurring epidemics of Cholera, Typhus, Typhoid, Scarlet Fever, Yellow Fever
1867 Galveston, TX Yellow Fever: 1,150 deaths
1867 New Orleans, LA Yellow Fever: 3,107 deaths
1873 Shreveport, LA Yellow Fever: 759 deaths
1873 Memphis, TN Yellow Fever: 200 deaths
1873-5 N. America and Europe Influenza
1878 Mississippi Yellow Fever: 3,165 deaths
1878 Memphis, TN Yellow Fever: 4,200 deaths
1878 New Orleans, LA Yellow Fever: 3,977 deaths
1878 Nationally Yellow Fever: an estimated 74,000 cases resulting in 15,934 deaths
1879 Memphis, TN Yellow Fever
1885 Chicago, IL water-borne disease
1885 Plymouth, PA Typhoid
1886 Jacksonville, FL Yellow Fever
1891-2 Chicago, IL Influenza
1900 Galveston, TX Cholera
1901 New York Influenza
1902 Alaska Measles
1904 Vermont Polio
1905 New Orleans, LA Yellow Fever: last US outbreak
1914 University of Illinois Scarlet Fever
1916 New York City Polio
1916 Midwest Influenza – Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and other midwestern cities
1918 Worldwide [high point yr] Influenza: more people were hospitalized in WWI from this epidemic than wounds. US Army training camps became death camps, with an 80% death rate in some camps
1949 Nationwide Polio
2019-? Worldwide coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): over 185,000,000 cases worldwide causing 4,000,000 deaths (as of July 2021).

14 Responses to American Epidemics

  1. Betty S. Zeigler says:

    My great, great, grandparents & a son died in the 1853 yellow fever epidemic (Lake Providence, LA). I would like more information if available. They were: Joseph K. Merry, Susan G. Saltenberer and Benjamin Merry. JKM & SGSM were b. in NJ.

  2. Janet Doe says:

    Looking for the kind of fever that happened in WV In 1886 that killed 4of my ancestors in September and October. Any help would be appreciated.

  3. Bob Wood says:

    Need to know of possibility of epidemic in late 1904 or early 1905. My grandfather Augustus Dolphous Wood (AKA Gussie) died January 1905 of unknown cause, possibly of some unknown disease.

  4. Karen L Day says:

    There were so many death’s in a lot of my families in the 1880’s so I googles Epidemics of the 1880’s and….

    From what I could find by Google and searching Morris Co. NJ in the US Mortality Census there were quite a few contagious pandemics going around. You had the forth Major Outbreak of Cholera, 1863-1879 and the fifth one from 1881-1896; Consumption and also Diphtheria. So I found out why one of my family lost 10 of their 12 children. They must have spread to one another one of the above and that’s why they lost so many family members in the 1880’s.

  5. Karen L Day says:

    Great Site! Very informative, thank you for your hard work!

  6. REGINS says:

    EPIDEMIC 1900 Boston killed my father’s 3 sister WILLIAM M Nelson 1900 named after deceased brother 1898

  7. Margo J. Kipps says:

    My great grandmother writes in a memoir that ~1880 in Iowa there was an epidemic of “Chintybugh.” Do you have any idea what she might have been trying to spell? She mentions wheat crop failures at the same time.

  8. lia says:

    There were many epidemics sweeping the nation in 1914. I am trying to narrow it down for Modoc County, CA. I have found bubonic plague, cholera, typhoid, menengitis, small pox and scarlet fever, measles and diphtheria. I have ruled out yellow fever, influenza and malaria and probably bubonic plague. We lost four children to one of these in January of 1914 within days of each other. Ages 14, 12, 7 and newborn. I don’t think it was bubonic plague as it happened later in the year in CA and was more near LA and SFO areas where the shipping industry is located. Any assistance or ideas is appreciated. I am leaning towards scarlet fever, cholera or typhoid.

  9. DM Benton says:

    Thanks for the info! I was trying to find why several members of a family died in 1880 Louisiana and although nothing specific was listed for that year, it did give me a good idea as to what happened! Great work!!

  10. Richard A Crothers says:

    My ancestor died 1799 in Maryland of yellow fever so the old family story goes. I see from your data that yellow fever was prevalent in Cecil County, MD at this time. Thanks.

  11. rana willit says:

    I am looking for information on an epidemic – possibly diphtheria -in Carleton, Monroe Co. Michigan around 1896. This would have involved quarantines and removal of the deceased by medical personal.

    • genealogy-quest says:

      I think your best source will be the annual reports published by The Michigan State Board of Health. These include figures for deaths by various diseases as well as tracing the cause and transmission of the infection.

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