Thursday, 16 October 2014

Melbourne Lying In Hospital Midwifery Books

In the past pregnant women were not welcome as patients in hospital, unless they were in a critical life-threatening condition.

Most births occurred at home although there were a few maternity homes/hospitals.These were known as lying-in hospitals and generally were benevolent institutions run by charities or public subscriptions. This often meant that there were some requirements for entry such as being of good character, not being intemperate in habit (ie not drinking alcohol) and not being a "fallen women" by being pregnant without being married.

The survival of these records is often very patchy I was very interested to come across online the records of the Melbourne Lying-in Hospital. The first book has been digitised and while other books have been kept in their archive they fall within the 100 year privacy closure period. Hopefully at a future stage they too will be digitised.

Online are images of each page of the book. These are not indexed at this site but some wonderful volunteers have indexed the online book and have made this index available on another site which is great if you are searching for a specific name. 

So you can check out the index first then go to the surname of interest or you can just browse and get and idea of  the social history and medical history of the time.

If you want a printed copy of the image then definitely selecting landscape paper orientation  gives better results as the information is written across the two pages of the book.

The below information of what is contained in the book has been taken direct from the website:
This book recorded the patient’s name, age, marital condition and parity (number of previous deliveries); date of admission and discharge. 
It then recorded details of the labour and delivery: the time in labour (which generally meant the time in second stage or heavy labour), the presentation (head, breech, transverse) and whether the baby was born alive or was stillborn. If the baby was alive, its sex, weight and length were noted, as were any interventions such as the use of forceps, or any manipulation by the accoucheur of its presentation. Complications such as prolonged (‘tedious’) labour, haemorrhage, pre-eclampsia or obstructed labour would be noted, along with occasional social comments such as ‘a notorious thief’ or ‘brought in by police’.

Page 89
Enlargement image 89

Image 89 left hand side

Image 89 Right Hand side

A great resource for people interested in health, midwifery or just maybe you might be lucky enough to find an ancestor mentioned.

Victorian Inquest Oopsie!

I was recently reading a report of "Returns of Coroner's Inquests in Victoria 1852-1853" published in 1854. These are Government reports that have been tabled in parliament and you can download a number of reports from the website and they make good reading.

Lots of "Visitation of God" as a cause, some "self-destruction", quite a number of "Death caused by excessive intemperance" some "Justifiable homicide" including this one "Deceased was a sailor on hoard the vessel Georgiana, and was shot by the master of the vessel in order to suppress a mutiny and stop the desertion of the crew"

There are also the death by natural causes, by lockjaw, a mother overlaying her child whilst she was in a state of intoxication (basically smothering the child with the mother's body and not an uncommon cause in the past), lots of death by drowning

One that caught my interest and you have to wonder what actually happened was the one for William Emery, well actually the two for William Emery. James McCrea initially determined, at an inquest at Forest Creek on the 3rd May 1852,  the cause of death to be "death from a fit caused by intemperance".

But something must have happened as on the 6th May "under consequence of suspicions having been aroused the body was exhumed and a post-mortem was performed". Did the family complain about the verdict? Was he an upstanding member of the community with some political power?

The new verdict is "Death from the bursting of an aneurysm in the heart under which the deceased had long laboured"

Under the remarks section it says that "although the deceased had been intoxicated at the time of his decease, his decease was caused by the bursting of the aneurysm and not as first supposed by the fit caused by the intemperance."

This warrants further investigation in the Public Records Office of Victoria to see if the Coroner's Report survives although it is unlikely to tell too much of the behind the scenes action that must have occurred to have this inquest redone. I wasn't able to find anything in Trove on this affair.


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

V is for Visitation of God

A term that is seen on a number of early death certificates is "Visitation of God", "Act of God" or Ex visitation e dei” which  is the Latin for "Visitation of God".

Generally this term is used when there appears to be a sudden, unexplained natural death. Actual cause might have been a stroke, heart attack or aneurysm so generally when there had been no previous illness.

Some examples: in Tasmania, Australia civil registration started in 1838. When you look through the early registers of death it is striking the number of occasions when the doctor, probably  a loss to explain the cause of death of adults and children alike, and he called it "Visitation of God." 

Within the first 10 years of the records, children from three months of age up to men and women aged in their 70's and 80's died from this cause. 

Visitation of God was also not an unusual verdict in an inquest up to the 1870s and found occasionally to 1900 or so.

The below examples from the Down Ireland Inquest Verdicts 1841 found here

BAXTER, James, on the 4th September 1841 at Aghadergh, Ireland visitation of God

BYRNE, Theophilus, on the 22nd Dec, at Tullyweir, visitation of God.

CARR, Mathew, on the 18th April, at Lurganbane, visitation of God.

CARSON, Andrew, on the 5th Oct. at Scarva, visitation of God.

CHAMBERS, William, on the 18th May, at Lurganbane, visitation of God.

CONNOR, John, on the 19th Oct, at Drumnabrace, visitation of God.

DOUGLASS, Elizabeth, on the 17th May, at Ballysallagh, visitation of God.

ENGLISH, David, on the 6th May, at Magherassul, visitation of God.

FARRELL, Mary, on the 1st Aug., at Ballykinlar, visitation of God.

FITZSIMONS, Hugh, on the 8th Jan, at Ardglass, visitation of God.

GRANT, John, on the 27th Dec. at Ballymagarrity, died by visitation of God.

HAMILTON, James, on the 13th March, at Ballyhasset, visitation of God.

IRWIN, Francis, on the 22nd Oct., at Dromaghadore, visitation of God.

JOHNSTON, Sarah, on the 12th Nov., at Lystallcarron, visitation of God.

KICLEY, John, on the 22nd April, at Bryansford, visitation of God.

KININGS, John, on the 14th Dec., at Conianstown, visitation of God.

LAVERY, John, on the 7th Nov. at Coolsallagh, visitation of God.

M'CONNELL, Daniel, on the 2nd Nov. Waringstown, visitation of God.

M'POLIN, William, 4th Jan, at Loughran, visitation of God.

NICHOLSEN, John, on the 24th April, at Ballymacknally, visitation of God.

O'HARE, John, on the 1st Jan., at Backaderry, by visitation of God.

ROONEY, Cecily, on the 16th Aug., at Saul, visitation of God.

WALKER, Isaac, on the 8th March, at Lisnashanker, visitation of God.

It is also interesting that there are a number of occasions where "Visitation of God" is given as well as what appears to be an accurate  medical cause is given such as in this example on a death certificate in 1842 in England after an inquest.  

In cause of death it says "Effusion of blood to the left ventricle of the brain" which is likely to be a burst aneurysm?  However  the Verdict was  "Died by the Visitation of God" and this was written on the certificate as was the medical cause. Was there some reason why the evidence from presumably a post-mortem not accepted?

The newspapers also reported the "Visitation of God" as is seen in
The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 - 1842) Saturday 4 October 1817, page 2
 "On Tuesday last, Thomas Lee, [sic] smith, of King-street, an industrious inhabitant of the Colony for several years past, expired suddenly in Pitt-street. An Inquest was convened on the occasion, whose verdict was Death by the Visitation of God"

I quite liked this one found on the death of Richard Cundy in 1847 who died at Richmond, Melbourne Victoria.,‘From a visitation of God following the consumption of spirituous liquors’  Perhaps a note of reprimand there?

"Visitation of God" has been seen on certificates from many countries including the colonies of Australia, Canada, the USA, England and other countries of the Commonwealth.

In the Second Annual Report of the Registrar General of Great Britain in 1840, William Farr presented the statistics of causes of death, defined as “diseases, which terminate in the extinction of existence” but he criticized the use of vague categories like "sudden death," "natural death," "visitation of God," and "old age” as not being helpful to determining actual cause of death.

The actual cause of death was important particularly in the new field of public health where with analysis as to deaths in urban and rural area, occupational deaths gave rise to many sanitation  and public health improvements.

William Farr developed a system of classification of the causes of death which, with development,  has become the International Classification of Death which is used throughout much of the world today and is in its tenth edition (ICD10).

William wrote many columns in the British Medical Journal explaining the classifications and the importance of having accurate causes of death reported. This and the increasing medical knowledge around the world meant that a death certificate with “Visitation of God” became a rarity as the century progressed.

I have heard of it on a certificate in 1910 and would be interested if you have a later certificate with this as a cause.

1856 New South Wales Certificate