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Feeling blue?…

 source

Your correspondent recently received an email from a genealogically-inclined first cousin concerning a possible common ancestor, one Martin Fugate, who, it appears, may be our great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.  Grandpa Martin was an orphan, an immigrant from France to Kentucky in the late 18th Century– unremarkable for the time in any way, but one: he seems to have introduced into his bloodline a rare condition called “methemoglobinemia“… that’s to say, for generations to come many offspring were (and are) born with blue skin coloring…

Benjamin “Benjy” Stacy so frightened maternity doctors with the color of his skin — “as Blue as Lake Louise” — that he was rushed just hours after his birth in 1975 to University of Kentucky Medical Center.

As a transfusion was being readied, the baby’s grandmother suggested to doctors that he looked like the “blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek.” Relatives described the boy’s great-grandmother Luna Fugate as “blue all over,” and “the bluest woman I ever saw.”

In an unusual story that involves both genetics and geography, an entire family from isolated Appalachia was tinged blue. Their ancestral line began six generations earlier with a French orphan, Martin Fugate, who settled in Eastern Kentucky.

Doctors don’t see much of the rare blood disorder today, because mountain people have dispersed and the family gene pool is much more diverse. But the Fugates’ story still offers a window into a medical mystery that was solved through modern genetics and the sleuth-like energy of Dr. Madison Cawein III, a hematologist at the University of Kentucky’s Lexington Medical Clinic…

Read the rest of this ABC News story here.  And find a more complete version of the history in the Science 82 report here.

As we remind ourselves that in-breeding isn’t restricted to the South, we might recall that it was on this date in 1828 that John Adams II, son of then-President John Quincey Adams, married his first cousin, Mary Catherine Hellen, in a White House ceremony.  John II’s grandfather, President John Adams, had married his third cousin, Abigail Smith.  Intermarriage skipped a generation with John Quincy Adams, who married a non-relative.

Then, in 1853, John II’s and Mary’s daughter, Mary Louisa Adams, also married a family member–her second cousin, William Clarkson Johnson, the son of her first cousin, Abigail Louisa Smith Adams– President John Adams’ great-grandson… notable for two reasons: both bride and groom were descended from President John Adams, and at the same time, it was the first marriage between descendants of two different presidents.

 John Adams II (source)

Written by LW

February 25, 2012 at 1:01 am

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