The boy who lived

Running away… to life

He was sick. Potentially-life-threatening-type sick. Sick with tuberculosis in the days before antibiotics. Sick enough that he was committed to a sanatorium in Summit County, Ohio, to be confined, away from his family, perhaps never to return home.

And when George Bulick was admitted to the Springfield Lake Sanatorium in East Akron, Ohio, on the 14th of February 1927, he was still a little more than six weeks short of his 12th birthday.

But on that 12th birthday, on the 1st of April 1927, George Bulick did something most children sent to Springfield Lake didn’t do. What most of them couldn’t do. What the rest probably wouldn’t have had the nerve to do.

George Bulick ran away.1

Now anybody who’s a regular reader of this blog knows two things.

First, The Legal Genealogist loves to poke around in old records. So when I ran across this index card record of George’s stay at that tuberculosis treatment facility in Ohio, it wasn’t for any particular blog post that I researching. There’s no particular Ohio law that needs explaining in this context. I was literally just poking around in the records.

And, second, The Legal Genealogist sometimes can’t help it — can’t begin to resist — can’t stop without finding out the rest of the story. In this case, the fact is, I have a 12-year-old nephew. And all I could see when I looked at that 12-year-old’s record was my 12-year-old nephew’s face. So I had to know. I had to find out.

What happened to George?

George was born 1 April 1915 in Barberton, Ohio. His father, Mike, and mother, Julia, had both been born in Europe — Austria, according to George’s admission card,2 Yugoslavia according to later census records.3

He was admitted to Springfield Lake Sanatorium on 14 February 1927, and his admission card said he was an 11-year-old fifth grader at Central School in Barberton. He was admission number 3177, and was assigned to the Children’s Building. In all, he spent 47 days as a patient at the Sanatorium.4

Until his birthday. 1 April 1927. And on that day, his 12th birthday, the card records that he was “discharged.” And the reason for discharge: “Ran away.”5

I have to tell you: I was almost afraid to look for the answer to my question about George. I thought of all the places where I might find him — and the one I dreaded was the Ohio Death Index for 1927. But that’s name-searchable on — and he wasn’t there.6

I looked for 1928. Not there. I looked for 1929. Not there. I looked for 1930. Not there. Could it be? Was there actually hope? With fingers and toes crossed, I turned to the 1930 U.S. census.

And there he was.

George, son of Mike and Julia, age 16, single, born Ohio.7 Living at home. Attending school. With any luck teasing his younger siblings and being picked on in turn by the older ones.

I quickly turned to the 1940 census, but George wasn’t living with Mike and Julia then.8 Maybe, I thought, maybe — could it be — could he have married?

The Summit County, Ohio, marriage books are online. And there he was again.

On the 26th of June 1937, George Bulick, age 22, living in Barberton, Ohio, son of Mike and Julia, married Fannie Ferraro, age 19, a native of Schenectady, New York, at St. Augustine’s Church in Barberton.9

Now fast forward to 1940 and the census. Now I could find him. And there he was again.

George Bulick, age 25, married, a clean up man at a match factory, with Fanny, age 21. And with Norma Jean. Age one. Born in Ohio.10

Fast forward once again to a general search of the Ohio death index.

And there he was one last time. George Bulick, born 1 April 1915, died 26 July 1966, in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, at the age of 51.11

I don’t know if George’s daughter outlived him, or if he had other children. I don’t know what he ended up doing in the years between 1940 and 1966. But for a boy who ran away from a tuberculosis ward on his 12th birthday, what I do know is pretty amazing.

He went home. He went back to school. He grew up. He married. He became a father.

He lived.

Good show, George.

I wish I could have met you.


  1. Springfield Lake Sanatorium, Summit County, Ohio, admittance card, George Bulich (Bulick), no. 3177, 1927; Summit County Records Retention Office, Cuyahoga Falls; digital images, “Ohio, Summit County, Coroner Inquests, Hospital and Cemetery Records, 1882-1947,” ( : accessed 20 Feb 2013).
  2. Springfield Lake Sanatorium, Summit Co., Ohio, admittance card, George Bulich (Bulick), no. 3177, 1927.
  3. See e.g. 1940 U.S. census, Summit County, Ohio, Barberton, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 77-11, sheet 20(B), page 162(B) (stamped), household 421, Michael and Julia Bulich; digital image, ( : accessed 20 Feb 2013); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 3152.
  4. Springfield Lake Sanatorium, Summit Co., Ohio, admittance card, George Bulich (Bulick), no. 3177, 1927.
  5. Ibid.
  6. A search with negative results for all persons with the surname Bulick (and alternative spellings) who died in Ohio between 1927 and the present was conducted in the database at ( : accessed 20 Feb 2013).
  7. 1930 U.S. census, Summit County, Ohio, Barberton, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 77-211, page 105(A) (stamped), sheet 1-A, dwelling 2, family 2, George Bulich (Bulick); digital image, ( : accessed 20 Feb 2013); citing National Archive microfilm publication T626, roll 1881; imaged from FHL microfilm 2341615.
  8. 1940 U.S. census, Summit Co, Ohio, Barberton, pop. sched., ED 77-11, sheet 20(B), p. 162(B) (stamped), household 421, Bulich household.
  9. Summit County, Ohio, Marriage Record Book 73: 72, marriage license and return, Bulick-Ferraro, 26 Jun 1937; Summit County Court of Common Pleas – Probate Division, Akron; digital image, ( : accessed 20 Feb 2013).
  10. 1940 U.S. census, Summit County, Ohio, Barberton, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 77-9, sheet 3(A), page 125(A) (stamped), household 48, Bulick household; digital image, ( : accessed 20 Feb 2013); citing National Archive microfilm publication T627, roll 3152.
  11. “Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1932, 1938-2007,” database, entry for George Bulick, 26 July 1966, ( : accessed 20 Feb 2013), citing Ohio Department of Health, Index to Annual Deaths, 1958-2002, Ohio Department of Health, State Vital Statistics Unit, Columbus, OH. See also Social Security Death Index, entry for George Bulick; ( : accessed 20 Feb 2013).
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41 Responses to The boy who lived

  1. I’m glad it had a happy ending. I had a teen aged member of my family tree in the Salem, Mass almshouse with TB in the 1900 census, age 17. I couldn’t find him in the next census, and feared the worst. His name was Frederick BILL, and I finally found him in the 1910 census in the Danvers, MA State Hospital under BELL. He died in 1911 of pulmonary TB. He spent at least eleven years of his young life in institutions before he died, maybe more. He should have run away, too!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      It sure makes you glad to live in a day of antibiotics, doesn’t it, Heather? Thinking of all those kids who didn’t make it home… I was so glad to see that George did.

  2. Jana Last says:

    I wonder George was cured of TB or not, or if he gave TB to any of his family members. My great-grandmother died of TB in 1919 at the tender age of 26. She was living in Brazil at the time.

  3. Mary Ann Thurmond says:

    What an uplifting story, Judy! It is nice to know these stories, especially in light of all the children who died young (many of now very treatable diseases)—and who frequently left NO record of their existence. My late Dad had an older brother who died at 2 1/2 years of age, of what illness I know not. My Dad was the last of the children born over 24 years or so, and when I found his brother’s record in what’s left of the family bible, my Dad had never heard of this brother. The only record I’ve recovered is the one in the family bible, since he was born and died between census takings and there were no death records in Texas until many years later.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Was that Losson Earnest, Mary Ann? And how sad for your Dad not to at least know of his brother…

      • Mary Ann Thurmond says:

        Yes, that was Lossen Earnest (I’m fairly sure, named after a Lawson and an Ernest). My Dad was in his 80′s and had never heard anything about this brother. When I found the bible record it was too late to find out if any of his siblings knew about this child. I don’t think it was one of the things my Dad’s sister, Winfred, wrote in the bible. And, of course, we’ll never know if she saw that name in the bible and asked her mother about it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to go back in time and interview all of these people of the past—now that we know the questions!?

  4. Debi Austen says:

    What a great story – I’m so glad to know he lived into adulthood! And I’d love to know more about his wife and child :-)

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      You and me both, Debi. I may send off for a copy of his obit just to see if I can find out more… (Curiosity, cat, what can I say?)

      • Pat Morgan says:

        How fun to find you have been poking around in my backyard. I grew up in Summit County!
        The Akron-Summit Public Library Special Collections Division has an amazing obituary collection and there is one for George. It was published 27 July 1966 in the Akron Beacon Journal.

        here is the email: speccollections I have no idea what the cost might be but they do send things via email and having ordered from them in the past they are very prompt.

        Maybe his obituary will answer the question of how he ended up dying in Cuyahoga County rather than his home in Summit?

        • Judy G. Russell says:

          Thanks, Pat, but I beat you to it, with the Barberton Public Library — George’s obit is on file there too. I can’t resist. I just have to know more — and would be thrilled if he had descendants and one of them popped in to tell us more too!

    • Nicole says:

      His wife, my grandmother, passed several years ago. George had 2 daughters and many grandchildren. Unfortunately, he passed of Lung cancer, before before several of us were born. He was a photographer and my grandmother was a stay at home Mom.

  5. John D. Tew says:

    Another excellent read! Thank you.

    My paternal grandmother spent years in and out of a sanatorium in RI due to TB. It was quite disruptive of the family and my father’s life — as well as his two siblings. When the 1940 Census was released I went looking for my father in it, and spent several hours doing so before I came to realize that he and his siblings had slipped through the cracks and never made it into the Census. With his wife in the sanatorium, my grandfather had to work and use other resources to care for the children — so they moved around to family and friends and thus never got enumerated because they missed the enumeration day each time they landed somewhere. My grandmother, on the other hand, was the only member of the family to be included in the 1940 Census. She was among a long list of patients residing at Wallum Lake sanatorium in RI on enumeration day.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      That’s so sad, John, that it disrupted your family that way! My great aunt Aibgail (Claymore) Cottrell was in the SD State Sanatorium for TB in 1930. Fortunately, she recovered well enough to return home thereafter. But oh my… what a situation for the families.

  6. Lise says:

    I love that collection! I hope it will be an indexing project someday soon. There is apparently a great story behind the collection: a very determined woman climbed into a dumpster to rescue the cards, and spent a great deal of time putting them into alphabetical order. While the information isn’t going to be helpful to a large number of people, those who do find their ancestors among the patients will know so much more than census or vital records alone can provide. Great blog post!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      It really is a wonderful set of records, Lise — heartbreaking in some respects, but offering answers where answers might not otherwise be found.

  7. Julie says:

    Thank you so much, this was lovely! Please post the obit when you get it. Consumption killed most of my great-great grandpa’s family. Just he and his oldest brother escaped it. It was so wonderful to read a happy story!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thank heavens for at least some happy endings, Julie — and I will definitely post whatever info I can find about George when I get it.

  8. Marla Larson says:

    Hurrah for George!!! So glad he made it. My great grandparents buried two sons who died in their twenty’s of Tuberculosis. This was 1916 & 1918. Eugene contracted the disease in Germany and gave it to his brother, Guy, after his return to Utah. Eugene never married while Guy died in Arizona while trying to make it to California for his health. He had only been married three months.

  9. Pingback: Ancestors from Outer Space and Constructive Criticism. It’s Follow Friday! | finding forgotten stories

  10. I love that he ran away from the sanatorium! My grandfather and his parents were all in one in Arkansas and I only recently learned of this. I have a letter that my great grandfather wrote to the family saying how he’d rather go home to die. Quite sad to think of the many people who died in one of these places knowing they were away from their loved ones. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      I agree that it must have been terrifying to be in a place like this, Jennifer — and to be 12 years old! Oh… just breaks your heart. On the other hand, you understand that it was the only way they knew of to treat the disease and keep it from spreading at the time…

  11. I just can’t wait for the sequel on this one!

  12. Rena Mooney says:

    Looking on, George was apparently healthy enough to pass the physical for the army. He is listed as a Private on April 23, 1945. “United States, World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946,” index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 Feb 2013), George Bulick, 23 Apr 1945.

    There is another man in Ohio, George Bulich, also born in 1915, but a different area.

  13. Rena Mooney says:

    George’s family in 1940 census, “United States Census, 1940,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 Feb 2013), Michael Bulich in household of Metza Causman, Ward 2, Barberton City, Barberton City, Summit, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 77-11, sheet 20B, family 421, NARA digital publication T627, roll 3152.

    George’s father’s death certificate:

  14. Rena Mooney says:

    It looks like George’s sister? was the head of the family in 1940, but was in the same institution in 1930. It must have been a good place to get well!! George’s family in 1940 census, “United States Census, 1940,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 Feb 2013), Michael Bulich in household of Metza Causman, Ward 2, Barberton City, Barberton City, Summit, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 77-11, sheet 20B, family 421, NARA digital publication T627, roll 3152.

    “United States Census, 1930,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 Feb 2013), Metza Causman, Springfield, Summit, Ohio; citing enumeration district (ED) 0201, sheet 1B, family , NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 1882.

    George’s father’s death certificate: “Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 Feb 2013), Mike Bulich, 14 Jul 1944; citing Barberton, Summit, Ohio, reference fn 47020; FHL microfilm 2032364.

    George’s sister’s death certificate: “Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953,” index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 23 Feb 2013), Michael Bulick in entry for Mary Williams, 30 May 1947; citing , reference certificate; FHL microfilm 2372930.

  15. Nicole says:

    Thanks so much for this thread!!! I’ve been trying to learn more about my grandfather. I know very little about him so this was a treasure to find!! Thanks for making my day!

    George’s granddaughter

  16. Kimberly Kaye McCaman says:


    My sister Nicole Murrey came across this article and forwarded it to me. We are the grand daughters of George Bulick, and yes, his daughters Norma Jean Murrey and Georgette Labriola are still living. Norma lives in Florida and Georgette lives in California. I was only 6 years old when my grandfathers passed, having very few memories. I will pass your article on to his daughters, I am sure they will be overjoyed to see that someone took the time and interest to research their fathers life. Thank you so much!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Kimberly, I’m just tickled that you and your sister took the time to comment. George’s story grabbed my heart and I’m thrilled to know the rest of the story. Good for him, good for your family, and thanks for sharing a bit of your history with us all.

  17. Fred Endres, Kent State University says:

    Hello everyone. Let me piggyback on this post, albeit belatedly. George Bulick was not at the Springfield Lake TB Sanatorium alone. His 7-year-old brother, Mike, came in with him on the same day (2/14/1927), and his 49-year-old mother, Julia (listed as Bolich), had been admitted on Feb. 1 of that year. Julia was there for observation and was released on Feb. 27 as a non-TB case. Mike ran away with his brother on April 1. They both had been diagnosed with TB of the hilum, the most common childhood TB diagnosis. This info comes from the original admit cards and from the Springfield Lake Sanatorium Discharge Registry at the Summit County (Ohio) Records Office. My wife (professor at Univ. of Akron) and I (Kent State University) are doing a book and documentary for PBS on the old Sanatorium. We’d love to hear from relatives of George or from anyone else who had relatives there. We’ve already interviewed a number of former patients. My contact info: Fred Endres,

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Hi, Fred! I found Mike’s record a day or two after George’s post ran — this is truly fascinating stuff. Some of George’s descendants commented. I’ll forward your inquiry on to them.

  18. Jeff Labriola says:

    George Was my grandfather, His daughter Georgette is my mother, she lives in CA and I in Scottadale, AZ. I never did get to meet him but to come across this article was amazing. thank you for writing it.
    Jeff Labriola,
    Grandson To George Bulick

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