A bit more research re. yesterdays post has yielded the following article from The Tarboro Southerner, dated 6 February, 1879:
"We have received the following letter from a prominent physician of Louisville, Ky., regarding the case [of the three children with night blindness] and trust some one will inform us whether the parents of these children, or their ancestors, were of blood relation:
"Louisville, Ky., Jan. 30th, 1879
Editor Tarboro Southerner: -- I see an extract from your paper in reference to the blindness of some children of James Howard. I have seen a great many such cases. Hemeralopie, or night blindness, is only a symptom. The disease is a pigmentary degeneration of the retina, or perceptive layer of the eye. With the ophthalmoscope, with which the back of the eye can be examined, small spots of black pigment are seen, especially at the periphery of the retina. They commence showing themselves there and gradually travel in towards the centre of the eye, ‘til, in time, it leads to total blindness. Some cases never become entirely blind. You will find that by covering one eye of the child and testing the other that sight is only central. That is, let the child look straight ahead and you will find that it will be unable to see anything held to the right or left, or above or below. The disease is said to come from the marriage of blood relatives. I have found it to be so in only a few cases. It would be interesting to know whether Mr. H. and wife were related or not. If Mr. Howard was not related to his wife before marriage, probably there was some inter-marrying some years back. Nothing can be done to stop the disease. W.C."
I gleaned this information: "What are the diseases associated with consanguineous marriages?
Retinitis Pigmentosa is a hereditary degeneration and atrophy of the retina. It is usually progressive and leads to reduced peripheral vision that causes tunnel vision, night blindness and loss of vision. This disease affects children and young adults."
In fact, my great grandparents were second cousins. They shared one set of common great grandparents. (That makes my father and me fourth cousins once removed...and my children and me fifth cousins once removed...and I am my own fifth cousin! We are fortunate that my mother's family was from Hungary!)
So, was it Vitamin A deficiency or intermarriage? Perhaps it was a combination of both, but to my knowledge, my grandfather and his siblings did not exhibit night blindness as adults.
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the curious story of Vera/Charlie Williams. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052114.htm.