H is for History, Hospital Records and your Health inheritance


HMy A2Z 2016 theme is how to pursue an interest in family history/genealogy – I’d love you to join me on the journey.

H is for History

Our ancestors, like us, lived within the historical context of the time. We need to consider what forces were affecting their lives such as wars, famine, drought, flood, tight economic times.

You may never have studied history (I certainly hadn’t) but you will find yourself exploring books and information relating to your family’s time period. These histories are large-scale or macro-histories. Your job is to find how that affected your family, how they contributed to the events of the day, and bring their stories to life. I’m a huge advocate of the micro-level perspective of history.

As I said in my own Kunkel family history “the names of the ‘little people’ are rarely recorded in the history books but they are the cannon fodder of wars, the workers who build a nation, and its railways, the families who make up its people”.

H is for Hospital Records

hospital chartWhere these exist they can provide great insights into life of our colonial (and current) history. I’ve used them a lot for my home state in Queensland, Australia though I’m unfamiliar with how common they are elsewhere. Perhaps one of my readers can enlighten me.

For example, one of the people I research among my Dorfprozelten (and related) immigrants is Carl Diflo. I believe it was he who was admitted to Brisbane Hospital on 17 November 1856: Carl Diflo (German) age 38, pauper RC under treatment of Dr Cannon, suffering from rheumatism. In his history it documents that he had been living for more than 1 year in the bush, on salt meat. He had severe pains in the feet present for 2 months.[i] The doctor’s treatment couldn’t be read but he was discharged well on 29 November 1856. Diflo had arrived in 1855 and had obviously been living under difficult conditions since being sent out west to work out his contract.

For obvious reasons they usually have fixed closure periods to protect privacy, but early ones can be very informative and reveal the person’s ship of arrival and place of origin as well as their kin and friendship networks.

I gave a paper on these records a few years ago. You can find the slide presentation here.

Benevolent Asylums, akin to the workhouses of the United Kingdom, were another form of hospital in that they cared for (generally elderly) people who could no longer care for themselves and had no family to assist. I wrote about discoveries in the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum some time ago in my Beyond the Internet series. They were generally well documented (where they survive) and they record inmates’ deaths as well. These records are generally held in the relevant state archive.

mary obrien

Mary Kunkel nee O’Brien from County Clare, Ireland.

H is for Health inheritance or longevity

Many genealogists have taken to preparing family charts illustrating the pattern and causes of death of generations of ancestors. Obviously life, and death, is not predictable but it can be informative to see the longevity of our ancestors and whether there are common ailments passed down through the generations. It would also be a useful starting point for comparison with cousins who share common ancestors.

You can see my recent longevity charts here.

Thank you for visiting me on this journey. I love comments <smile>

[i] Brisbane Hospital QSA Series 10822, Item 2903. 1853 1858 Microfilm 1626

18 thoughts on “H is for History, Hospital Records and your Health inheritance

  1. Pauleen, thanks for reminding us about the usefulness of hospital records. I haven’t used them that much but when I have made the effort, it usually pays off.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have several ancestors who were in asylums of various types, but I’ve never tried to get a record from one. I’ve always been unsure what was available, especially if a place no longer exists. Something else to add to the to-do list, I suppose!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hospital records are not readily available, I may have to visit some archives somewhere.
    In 1903 my 2x great uncle was hit in the head with a brick during a streetcar strike, left for dead, and spent over 40 years in an insane asylum. His sister would bring him bananas and he would eat them peel and all! Thank goodness it was a progressive hospital that kept the patients busy with work and hobbies, rather than sedating them or worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: A to Z 2016 Summary | Family history across the seas

  5. As you know, Pauleen, I am passionate about indexing Queensland’s hospital admission registers. I know of many indexes to admission records for Victoria’s hospitals, especially in the gold fields. Those indexes (and some for other States) are listed in the book “Specialist Indexes in Australia: a Genealogist’s Guide”.

    Liked by 1 person

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