1918 – 1919 Spanish Flu Pandemic

My Great Grandmother Jessie Melina Wigley nee Boyd died from Spanish Flu on 7 May 1919 in Sydney, New South Wales.  She was only 29 years old and my grandfather Richard Alexander Wigley was 12.

Photo of Jessie Melina Boyd

Jessie Melina Boyd


Funeral card for Jessie Melina Wigley

Jessie Melina Wigley nee Boyd


The Spanish Flu

“The flu was said to have infected 500 million people worldwide and killed 50 to 100 million of them, 1 to 3 percent of the world’s population at the time, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.”



The New South Wales Experience of the Spanish Flu Epidemic

ABC Radio www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2009/11/11/2740044.htm

Jeremy McAnulty, the Director of Communicable Diseases, with NSW Health talks to Richard Glover about the impact of the flu on New South Wales.  This is a short interview which I found well worth listening to.  Here are some of the notes I took while listening.

The first wave of the flu in New South Wales was from March to May 1919 this was a weaker strain of the virus however approximately 1800 people still died.  The second wave was from May to August 1919.  The influenza strain had mutated by this time and was stronger.  Approximately 2900 people died in this time.

The Spanish Flu differed from seasonal influenza in that it mostly effected healthy young adults around 30 years of age and not the young, elderly or infirm.  Unfortunately Jessie fell right in this age category.


The Influenza Pandemic – The University of Sydney

Although this article is primarily talking about the staff and students of the University of Sydney it still gives readers an idea of what it was like in Sydney at the time.

Influenza Emergency Worker Badge

Influenza Emergency Worker Badge from the Powerhouse Museum http://from.ph/135446


The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Wednesday 7 May 1919, page 12

Report in the SMH on the day Jessie died.

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), Wednesday 7 May 1919, page 12

The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Wednesday 7 May 1919, page 12


Jessie and Charles Wigley

Jessie and Charles Wigley

Jessie's Death Notice In The Sydney Morning Herald

Jessie’s Death Notice In The Sydney Morning Herald



2 thoughts on “1918 – 1919 Spanish Flu Pandemic

  • April 2, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    Your Great Grandmother was beautiful Kylie.

    Several relatives died during the typhoid epidemic in Victoria. I’d be interested to know what the cause of death is listed as on the death certificate. Was it influenza or pneumonia? I have a couple of ancestors who died of pneumonia. I may have to have a look if there was influenza in the area at the time.

    Thank you.

    • April 2, 2013 at 10:20 pm

      Thanks Sharon, it was sad but fascinating researching this post. When was the typhoid epidemic?


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