Beyond the Internet: Week 17 Hospital records

This is Week 17 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week the topic is Hospital admissions and records, which can be surprisingly useful.

I’d love it if you wanted to join in and tell us about your successes with these records, or share your experience, especially if you live overseas and use different set of records. If possible please provide a link to your post on this page.

Hospital notices

In the early days of settlement some hospital boards published their statistics annually and included the names of patients who had died. This can be useful where death indexes prove difficult.

As an example: Francis (Franz Ignaz) Zöller died on 28 April 1862 from phlebitis suppuratoria in Toowoomba Hospital as reported in the Darling Downs Gazette (DDG).[1] The death index is for Tiller.

Similarly, depending on the “chattiness” of the newspaper, you may get ambulance reports of family members being taken to hospital for injuries large and small.

These examples highlight a couple of things: (1) even though the DDG is on Trove, the name doesn’t come up. Would you look nearly a year after his death for information? (2) the value of indexes provided by the local family history society.

Hospital Admission Books: Where to find them

If you are researching in Queensland, you are in luck. Judy Webster’s excellent site provides indexes to some of the hospital admission records held by the Queensland State Archives. QSA also has some indexes available. Judy also has some useful background information about the costs to patients’ families. If you have Queensland family history, do have a thorough browse of Judy’s site as it’s full of information, and she also has a great book you can buy, which I’ve found very useful.

How do you do check the records if you want to do this yourself? Well go to your state archives catalogue (usually online these days) and search by the name of the hospital. Be careful that the name of the hospital you know it by today, may not always have been its name eg I initially searched for “Royal Brisbane Hospital” but using “Brisbane Hospital admissions” is what gives results.

Also keep in mind that you may be wise to search the mental asylum records as people were admitted for a variety of conditions from post-natal depression to full psychosis. Once again, Judy Webster also has indexes for Qld while the Public Records Office of Victoria has some of their records available online to download and browse. Use this link for mental asylum records at State Records of NSW.

Hospital records: What might you find

Reasonably obviously this is likely to change over time, however some early admission records provide wonderful information about the person’s immigration, place of residence, next of kin and the like. A few years ago I browsed these records looking for details on anyone from East Clare or for any clues to my Germans, and there is a wealth of information in them.

An example: Thanks to Judy’s index, I easily found the admission record for Carl Diflo to Brisbane Hospital. Carl Diflo was admitted to the Brisbane Hospital on 17 November 1856 and discharged on 29 November 1856.[2] I believe this is the man I research among my Dorfprozelten immigrants. The age stated is not correct, but he is a German Catholic and the surname is very unusual. Carl was suffering from rheumatism and severe pains in his feet. He had been living on salt meat for more than a year in the bush. This lets me deduce a fair bit about his early life in Moreton Bay after arrival in 1855.

For various reasons the Diflo family had a terrible time in Australia and his daughter Phoebe Nevison was also admitted to the Rockhampton asylum with what seems to be post-natal depression. Her file includes details of the cost of her care, and a letter from her husband explaining his difficulty in paying as well as providing information about his work and their children.

Military Hospitals

Following on from the various Anzac Day posts, it’s worth considering where our relatives were sent to recuperate from war injuries, and how they were treated.

This post from Helen Smith is an excellent example of how different sources of information can be used to reveal more of their experience in the military hospital.

Next week: Benevolent Asylums


[1] Deaths in Australia, Volume 2, extracted from The Darling Downs Gazette August 1860-Dec 1865, Toowoomba and Darling Downs Family History Society Inc, Toowoomba, 2002, page 31 (Ziller). Darling Downs Gazette 5 March 1863, annual report, page 3. Qld Death certificate 1862/C000089 indexed as Tiller: Francis Tiller, son of Peter Tiller and Magdalene Villers, consistent with the names of Franz Ignaz’s parents.

[2] Queensland State Archives Item ID2903, Case book,  Microfilm Z1626, page 509.

X is for X-Trailing into the distance

I am participating in the A to Z 2012 blog challenge throughout April. My theme is a genealogical travelogue or a travel genealogue (I’m not sure which).

Since we got our Nissan X-Trail about four years ago, it’s taken us on some long adventures, though to be honest its 4WD facility hasn’t had much of a workout.

Heading for ruin, but I loved this old building seen en route to Townsville. © P Cass 2008.

The first long trip we took in the X-Trail combined genealogy and travel very nicely. We drove to Cairns in Far North Queensland visiting family sites such as Hughenden, Charters Towers, Townsville and Ingham along the way. Many were the cemeteries we explored for family plots and photos. We also visited a whole raft of family history centres, mining them for the indexes specific to the area. Oh yes, and we did have a holiday, exploring Magnetic Island which I used to visit as a child, and the mountains-to-reefs of the Cairns area. All in all we had great fun, and a very productive time indeed.

Peter's grandparents' gravestone in the Ouyen cemetery. © P Cass.

The longest trip the little X-Trail has achieved was Darwin to Tasmania (Tassie) via Adelaide and Melbourne. I think we notched up around 9,500 kms on that drive which was to celebrate a “special” birthday for us both. Despite the long drive Darwin-Adelaide, we had a lot of fun in the holiday sector of our journey. We ate lots of great fresh food in Tasmania, drank equally good wine and whisky, saw the yachts from the Sydney-Hobart race and admired some wonderful natural scenery. Of course what is any trip without a genealogy aspect, so we stopped along the way at a couple of places in western Victoria where my husband’s family has links: Ouyen, Horsham and North Laen.

A view in Oatlands showing the historic windmill. I loved that the stone walls near it were restored by women who learnt the skills. © P Cass.

In Tassie we visited the town of Oatlands where my husband’s convict ancestor spent some of his sentence. Oatlands has a wonderful array of old Georgian buildings and we fell in love with its vibe. A visit to the archives in Hobart revealed a few more clues about his ancestor and eliminated a possible migration record for my O’Briens.

Last year we drove Darwin-Brisbane-Canberra return and had quite a lot of genealogy fun. The timing of the trip was for us to attend the Not Just Ned exhibition and for me to enjoy three days of fun at Shamrock in the Bush 2011. As always, archives, family history centres, and cemeteries featured in our itinerary as well as seeing the countryside looking very green and lush after the early 2011 floods throughout the west.

The Murphys Creek railway station, of importance to the Kunkel family history. Murphys Creek was severely affected by the 2011 floods. © P Cass

On St Patrick’s Day 2011, we took Ms X-Trail for a quick skip down the Stuart Highway and I wrote about the scenery and the birds we saw here.

The X-Trail has given us a ton of fun, as well as a solution to the “X is for…..” conundrum.