Posted by on March 11, 2014 in Moments in Time

Today, 96 years ago, Private Albert Martin Gitchell, a company cook at Camp Funston in Kansas, reported to the sick bay with the first documented case of the Spanish Influenza.

Following our Core Conversation on big data and the stories we can tell from it during the SxSW conference,  we looked into the family history of Spanish Influenza “patient zero” and pulled together his story represented in a visual way. 


This is a photo of the 1918 Spanish influenza ward at Camp Funston, Kansas, showing the many soldiers ill with the flu. Photo from National Museum of Health and Medicine, AFIP (public domain).

It’s easy to look at the Spanish Flu in terms of deaths (some reports have it as 20+ million), but what were the stories of those affected? What was Albert’s story? Did he die as a result of capturing the Spanish Influenza? Find out by viewing his story, told from records and photos.

We invite you to share great (or poor) examples of storytelling with data that you’ve run across by adding them in the comments below and or by using the hashtag #datastory on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+.


About Kristie Wells

Kristie is Ancestry's Head of Global Social Media and Online Support Community and is responsible for developing and managing the company's social media and social business offerings worldwide. She works with a team of community managers, genealogists and social content developers to help educate Ancestry's existing customers, inspire new family historians and expand awareness into new social audiences and communities. She has a deep love of family history and is currently trying to break through the brick wall of her Christophier line (that was supposedly French and Catalan, but it seems was really the Christopher's from Iowa) and to one day prove where the heck William Wells of Southhold, NY (b. 1608) was really born.


Kami Williamson 

I have 8 members of my family who died in the flu epidemic from 1918-1919. All 8 were members of the same family, the Martindales of Jasper, Texas. Three brothers: George W Martindale, Henry F Martindale, and Albert L Martindale. George died first on January 17th, 1918 followed by Henry on February 26th, 1918 and then Albert died on January 25th of 1919. George had three sons who died from the epidemic. Luthor A, died 01-04-19; William B, died 01-07-19; and Johnnie B, died 01-31-19. Then finally, Henry F had a son and a daughter who died. Henry L, died 01-03-19 and Ola, died 12-16-18.

March 11, 2014 at 4:20 pm
Spanish Flu – U.S. Patient Zero | Ups and Downs of Family History 

[…] does a nice work-up on Private Albert Martin Gitchell, considered America’s Patient Zero in what would be called the Spanish Flu epidemic. […]

March 11, 2014 at 5:01 pm

My Great-Grandmother Bertha Porch Hill died of influenza October 3 1918 in Philadelphia leaving 4 very young children and a husband.

March 11, 2014 at 5:11 pm
Marcia DeHaven 

I remember as a young child being told about my Grandfather’s brother dying of the Spanish Flu in Cleveland, Ohio. He was a classic case: young man and healthy – dead in a short time. When I am searching for family members and come across a death of a young person about 1918 it usually is the Spanish Flu.
Also I have learned that TB took many young people in the early 1900s – really a sad saga of our history.

March 11, 2014 at 7:16 pm

My great grandmother Esther (Hattie) Warshofsky was the first death due to Spanish flu in the city of Hamilton Ontario. Her older sister Daisy did weeks later from the flu. The local papers reported on both. They are buried together. Esther had one child, my grandfather and was 25 years old at death. Her son was sent off to live with his maternal grandparents in Riverside California and appeared there in the 1920 US census. He was repatriated to Ontario some time thereafter but not in time for the 1921 census of Canada. Oddly my grandfather’s birth was never registered until he did it himself in the 1970s. We think he was around three when his mother died.

March 11, 2014 at 10:14 pm

I don’t have any family members who died of the Spanish Flu, but I was reading about why it affected young people so disproportionately. The argument is that a young person’s immune system ramps up to fight off the flu and that this immune response is ultimately what leads to death.

March 12, 2014 at 1:28 pm

I had a great Aunt that according to her 1918 death certificate died of pneumonia as complication from influenza in Rhode Island. Tragic world event.

March 12, 2014 at 5:52 pm
Mary Kowalke Buerkley 

Not all who contacted the ‘1918’ influenza died. My mother who was age 13, contracted both the flu and scarlet fever, at the same time……..In her telling it, the only thing that she could eat and keep down were tomatoes, and they happened to have had a bumper crop that year. She came through it and lived to the age of 94. These days the natural health community touts the benefit of Vitamin C. I bet those tomatoes were loaded with it!

March 12, 2014 at 6:27 pm
Mrilyn Whitaker 

I have become aware in recent years deaths from Spanish flu are still happening. Those who survived ha
ve been prone to lung problems all life and some have died of cancer of lungs and emphasema.

March 30, 2014 at 1:11 pm