Wednesday, 4 January 2017

World Braille Day 4 January

Louis Braille was born 4 January 1809 in France (1809-52), He developed the 6-dot finger tip reading system known as braille, for the visually impaired.

It was not the only system developed but it was the most successful and is used around much of the world today.

For more information about the evolution in England on reading systems for the blind listen to the free podcast lecture held at The National Archives.  Blindness in Victorian Britain presented by Heather Tilley,  a British Academy postdoctoral research fellow at Birkbeck, University of London

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

First "Test Tube" Baby born 25 July 1979

Seems a little strange to think of 1979 as historical but this was definitely a historic event.

This was the day the first child conceived using in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) was born. Louise was born via planned caeserian in a hospital in England.

Contrary to the popular press fondness for alliteration,  the technique developed by Dr Patrick Steptoe (obstetrician and gynaecologist) and Robert Edwards (physiologist) actually takes place in a petri dish. 

Robert Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2010. Unfortunately the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously and as Dr Steptoe had died in 1988, he did not share in the Nobel Prize.

For the many couples who were not able to conceive naturally this assisted reproductive technology has been a major step forward. There have been an estimated five million babies born using this technique during the 35 year period. 

Certainly also the introduction of IVF has also raised much controversy in certain sections of the community.   

The Process
In-vitro fertilisation is not just a few quick manipulations in a petri dish but is instead a complex procedure consisting of  a number of steps requiring meticulous timing.

1. The eggs need to harvested from the ovaries. This entails generally injections of  Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) , which encourages the development of several follicles (sacs on the ovaries that contain eggs), this part usually takes a couple of weeks then the eggs are harvested.

2. The semen needs to be collected and the next step is indeed where a test tube is used as the most common way of preparing the semen is using a density gradient in the test tube which harvests the most motile sperm. 

3. For normally motile sperm they are placed in a petri dish with the egg and left overnight. For sperm which are less motile a single sperm are assisted into the egg by injection and also left overnight.

4. The eggs are checked to see if fertilisation has occurred and if it has then the now embryo grows for around six days.

5. The embryo(s) are transferred via a small plastic tube placed through the cervix into the uterine cavity.

There are many causes of infertility both for the female and the male:
  • Fallopian tube damage or blockage
  • Ovulation disorders
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian failure 
  • Sperm: 
    • Below-average sperm concentration, 
    • Weak movement of sperm  or 
    • Abnormalities in sperm size and shape making it difficult for sperm to fertilize an egg
Chlamydia is now the commonest cause of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (often shortened to PID) which left untreated can cause infertility due to damage to the Fallopian tubes.  Unfortunately Chlamydial infections in women are usually asymptomatic. Sadly,  it is believed that around 25% of cases of infertility could be caused by previous infection with chlamydia. What is even more concerning, is that it is also estimated that 10% of women infected with chlamydia are at risk of infertility.  The increasing incidence of the bacterial infection  is of particular concern particularly among younger women. In 2014, a total of 1,441,789 chlamydial infections were reported to Centre for Disease Control. With treatment the condition can be cured.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Trove Tuesday: Rendered Senseless at Work

Poisoned Gas
London January 4
Extraordinary Incident in Factory
The Berlin correspondent of the "Daily Chronicle" states that an extraordinary affair occurred yesterday in a large chocolate box making factory in Berlin where 25 women who were engaged in sticking feathers on the boxes all suddenly fell senseless. Medical help was not available immediately but the fire brigade was summoned and with the help of fresh air and cold water the women were brought around. It is believed they fainted through the gum they were using generating poisonous fumes.
The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860-1954), Saturday 5 January 1924, page 9

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Health Chart using #MyColorfulAncestry

J Paul Hawthorne came up with a way of visualising our family history data. #MyColourfulAncestry which has taken Facebook by storm

Paul has provided a downloadable 5 generation chart Thanks Paul!

There are a lot of things you can do. I have always been a strong advocate of researching your health history and so of course I redid a cause of death chart.  

This shows the cause of death and the age.

Cancer shown in red occurs more often than I would like. Tuberculosis also occurs as does heart disease although pretty good ages for most of my ancestors. Best is 101 years for my great-great grandfather who died from a fractured femur.

Old age, Natural decay, Senile decay occur quite often. 

On my father's side the average age is 69 (maximum 93 years), pulled down some by the death at age 29 in World War 2 and also some deaths in their 60s due to tuberculosis and pneumonia.

On my mother's side average age is 72 years (maximum is 101) again with some early deaths due again to tuberculosis (27 and 36 years). 

On looking at the chart the cancers are at a more advanced age so unlikely to have a genetic cause and while not shown here it is known they were different types of cancer. As the people get older you need to be careful with causes of death as the old saying goes death is caused by the stopping of the heart so cardiac can be quite common. Old age is often listed and prior to knowing a lot about medical causes the symptoms may be given as the cause.

In my fifth generation the people are born in the mid to later 1800s and as can be seen there are quite a number who have reached their three score years and ten. Certainly there was a lot of infant mortality in the earlier years and it is this that has led to the average age in the past being quite low rather than the fact that some people did not live to an older age.

The creation of a health chart showing cause of death or illness in life can be very useful in finding out more about your family. You can show height, allergies, fertility, colour of hair pretty much any characteristic of your family.

If you have someone who died early due to war or accident you do need to show this as it can skew the data.

If you find a common theme as cause of death particularly at an early age then it is possible that there is a genetic cause and having a discussion with your doctor is well worth while as a proactive regime of testing or changes to lifestyle can take place.

The life you save could be your own!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

World Toilet Day 19th November


 Why is it needed?

1 in 3 people on this planet still don’t have access to a clean and safe toilet

1,000 children die each day due to poor sanitation 

Better sanitation supports better nutrition and improved health

Children and women are most affected

World Toilet Organization was founded on 19 November 2001 and the inaugural World Toilet Summit was held on the same day, the first global summit of its kind. 

The need for an international day to draw global attention to the sanitation crisis was recognised – and so the establishment of World Toilet Day. 

Non-Government Organisations, the private sector, civil society organisations and the international community joined in to mark the global day.

On July 24, 2013, World Toilet Day on 19 November became an official United Nations day. 

Each year UN World Toilet Day calls on the global community to do more to address the sanitation crisis. The theme for 2015 is ‘Sanitation and Nutrition’.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Do you have someone in the Royal Army Medical Corps?

The historical issues of the Royal Army Medical Corps are freely available online.

For anyone interested in medical treatments over the last 112 years this is a journal for you. First issue is for 1903.

Of particular interest are the issues relating to the medical treatments during the First World War.

Of interest to family historians is the section relating to transfers of men within the RAMC.
And it is not just the officers as it also listed rank and file.

There were also listings of birth and marriage notices as well as some obituaries.

December 1914

September 1915
December 1914
There were also lists of commendations, many of which were also in the London Gazette but may be worth checking if more information is listed in the RAMC journal than the Gazette particularly for things like being mentioned in dispatches.

So if you have an interest in medical procedures or you have family in the Royal Army Medical Corps you should really look at this journal.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Archaic Medical Terms

Looking at the cause of death on our older
 certificates it can be hard to determine what actually caused the death due to the usage of some archaic terms not normally used today.

Sometimes it is a case the cause given is more of a symptom seen, as many of these certificates were issued before knowledge of infectious diseases. So seeing the "Black Pox" the "Blue Pox" etc is not unusual or even 'Act of God'

Sometimes you might even see Causa Mortis Incognita  which means the cause of death was not known and the doctor wrote it in Latin rather than admit in English they didn't have a clue!

To celebrate the release of the second edition of my book Death Certificates and Archaic Medical Terms I am going to share some terms here, with another 1500 terms plus available in the book.

The book also examines the history and evolution of death certificates. When did they start? What is on them and why it can be a case of "Buyer Beware". What were the legal requirements? What does it mean when a death is certified? Why aren't all deaths certified?

This title is available in book form from several retailers across the world, along with titles from many other excellent genealogy authors. 
The outlets are: Gould Genealogy (Australia)
My History (UK)

Global Genealogy (Canada)
Maia's Books (United States)

It is also available as an ebook from gen-ebooks

Abdominal Angina: sharp pain in the abdomen caused by insufficient blood supply often occurs a couple of hours of eating

Abdominal Dropsy: Abnormal accumulation of fluid in abdominal cavity

Abortus: Miscarriage (Latin)

Absinthism: symptoms such as delirium tremens seen in Alcoholism. Absinthe is an aromatic herb was used to flavour alcohol particularly in Europe

Act of God: When death has occurred, often suddenly without a known reason, possibly stroke or aneurysm

Addison’s Disease: A rare, chronic condition brought about by the failure of the adrenal glands to produce cortisol and aldosterone. Thomas Addison first identified the disease in 1855 while working at Guy’s Hospital in London. At that time, the main cause of the disease was as a complication of tuberculosis

Aden Fever: Dengue fever

Albuminuria: excess of albumin in urine often seen in kidney disease

Angina Membranacea: see Diphtheria (Latin)

Anthracnosis: Occupational disease of coal miners due to prolonged exposure to the coal dust results in fibrosis of lungs due to deposition of anthracite coal dust in the lungs

Apoplexia Cordis: Heart Attack (Latin)

Autumnal Catarrh: Hay fever

Bacillary Dysentery: Dysentery caused by bacteria Shigella dysenteriae

Bacteraemia: Presence of bacteria in blood

Bad Blood: see Syphilis, an infectious venereal disease

Baghdad Boil: Cutaneous Leishmaniasis caused by parasitic protozoans of the genus Leishmania. It is transmitted by sand flies 

Bang’s Disease: Brucellosis caused by Brucella bacteria: can be found in contaminated milk, dairy products or with animal exposure particularly pigs, goats and cattle

Barometer Makers Disease: mercury poisoning

Belly Bound: Constipated

Bilious attack: Gastric distress caused by a disorder of the liver or gall bladder

Black Consumption: Occupational disease of coal miners. Due to prolonged exposure to the coal dust results in fibrosis of lungs

Black Mortification: Gangrene

Blackwater Fever: Dark urine associated with high temperature and breakdown of red blood cells, seen in malaria

Bladder in Throat: Diphtheria which causes a pseudo-membrane in the throat

Bleeder’s Disease: Haemophilia

Blue Baby: baby born with blue appearance. Usually due to a heart defect (generally a ventricular defect) which does not allow the blood to become fully oxygenated

Bowel Hives: Enteritis, diarrhoea. Could be caused by a range of diseases

Brassfounder’s Ague: Caused by inhalation of metal fumes when heating metals especially zinc

Bright's Disease: Inflammatory disease of kidneys may be acute or chronic. Ranked high as a cause of death 18th to early 20th centuries. Can be any of a range of diseases with the symptom of albuminuria (increased albumin (protein) in urine) First described by Dr Richard Bright in 1827

Bronze Diabetes: Caused by problem of iron overload which causes the skin to take on a bronze tint such as with haemochromatosis. Usually a genetic condition although iron overload has occurred in people long term home brewing in cast iron containers. Haemachromatosis

Camp Fever: Typhus. May also be typhoid fever caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhi or in malaria. Continuing fevers seen in the army, particularly in the US Civil War

Cancrum Oris: Deep ulcer of lip and cheek often seen in young children in poor hygiene conditions

Canine Madness: Rabies, hydrophobia

Carcinoma Prostata: Prostate cancer (Latin)

Causa Mortis Incognita: Cause death not known (Latin)

Cerebral Congestion: Bacterial or viral infection of the brain (Meningitis/encephalitis)

Cerebrospinal Fever: meningitis, may be bacterial or viral in origin

Change of Life: Menopause

Costiveness: Constipation, retention of faeces in bowels

Cottonpox: Milder form of smallpox Variola Minor

Cramp Colic: Possibly appendicitis or, food poisoning. As a symptom it is hard to be sure of actual causative medical condition

Dead Palsy: Loss of motion or feeling in a part of the body, probably after effects of a stroke

Death Struck: apoplexy, stroke

Decay of Nature: Old age usually

Decrepita Aetas: Old age

Decrepitude: Feebleness often due to old age

Dentito: Cutting of teeth, often characterised with fevers in children (Latin)

Diphtheria: Contagious acute disease of the upper respiratory tract where a membrane can grow across throat caused by bacterium Corynebacterium diphtheriae. The bacteria produces toxins which can affect most of the organs of body

Dock Fever: Yellow fever

Domestic Illness: Mental breakdown (more usually used for women)

Dropsy: Swelling from accumulation of fluid, often caused by kidney disease or congestive cardiac failure

Egyptian Chlorosis: Hookworm causing anaemia

Empyema: Pus often in chest cavity around the external lining of the lung

Enteric Fever: Typhoid fever caused by a bacteria Salmonella Typhi

Epidemic Fever: Typhus

Epidemic Cholera: Asiatic cholera

Epidemic Parotitis: Mumps

Ergotism: A convulsive disease caused from ingesting the mycotoxins from mould on spoiled grain. The Calviceps purpurea fungus produces alkaloids and ingestion of these cause long term poisoning

Ergotoxicosis: see Ergotism

Erythroblastosis Fetali: Haemolytic disease of the newborn (Latin)

Exhaustion From Cold and Want: Starvation and hypothermia

Falling Sickness: Epilepsy

Famine Fever: Typhus

Febris: Fever (Latin)

Febris Delirio: Fever with delirium (Latin)

Febris Dysenterica: Fever with bloody faeces

Febris Morbillosa: Measles (Latin)

Filth Disease: Typhoid caused by Salmonella Typhi

Fort Bragg Fever: Leptospirosis

Galloping Consumption: Tuberculosis with symptoms showing rapidly even though illness would have been present for a time period

Gaol Fever: Typhus

Gibraltar Fever: Brucellosis caused by Brucella bacteria: can be found in contaminated milk, dairy products or with animal exposure particularly pigs, goats and cattle

Glomerulonephritis: Inflammation of both kidneys See Bright’s Disease

Haemachromatosis: Inherited iron overload disorder causes the body to absorb more iron than usual from food. It results in excess iron being stored throughout the body and can result in skin pigmentation, diabetes and heart failure. Over time, the liver enlarges becomes damaged and can lead to serious diseases such as cirrhosis

Halstern’s Disease: see Syphilis

Hanot’s Disease: Cirrhosis of liver

Hansen’s Disease: see Leprosy

Hatter's Disease: Mercury poisoning affects central nervous system

Hooping Cough: see Whooping cough

Hookworm: Infection by hookworm Ancylostoma duodenale and Nectator americanus parasitic nematode worms are abundant throughout the world, including in the following areas: southern Europe, North Africa, India, China, south east Asia, some areas in the United States, the Caribbean, and South America. Enters body through soles of feet. This hookworm is well known in mines because of the consistency in temperature and humidity that provide an ideal habitat for egg and juvenile development. Ancylostoma duodenal can be ingested in contaminated food and water but most common route and only route for Nectator americanus is through penetration of the skin. Anaemia major effect due to loss of iron and blood

Horrors: Delirium tremens: Hallucinations due to alcoholism

Imposthume: Abscess, collection of purulent matter

Jail fever: Typhus

King’s Evil: Tuberculosis of neck and lymph glands, scrofula. There was a belief the disease could be cured by the touch of the king

Lepra Syphilitica: Syphilis

Little’s Disease: Cerebral palsy first described by William John Little (1810-1894), British physician

Locked Jaw/Lockjaw: Tonic spasm of the muscles of mastication, causing the jaws to remain rigidly closed. Usually refers to tetanus

Lues Disease: Syphilis

Mad Hatter Syndrome: Mercury poisoning affects central nervous system. Occupational disease of hatmakers who used the mercury to stiffen the felt

Malarial Cachexia: Generalised state of debility that is marked by anaemia, jaundice, splenomegaly, and emaciation. Results from long-continued chronic malarial infection

Malignant Fever: Typhus

Marasmus: Severe malnutrition. Failure to thrive, usually used for young children

Marasmus Senilis: Wasting or decay of body in aged persons

Mariner Disease: Scurvy

Mediterranean Fever: Brucellosis caused by Brucella bacteria: can be found in contaminated milk, dairy products or with animal exposure particularly pigs goats and cattle

Membranous Croup: Diphtheria

Miasma: Before knowledge of infectious diseases the poisonous/bad smelling vapours thought to infect the air and cause disease

Miner’s Anaemia: See Hookworm

Morbid Intemperance: Alcoholism, overuse of alcohol

Morbus: Disease, sickness

Morbus Brightii: Bright’s disease, kidney disease which may be acute or chronic

Morbus Sacer: Epilepsy. It has been believed in the past that epileptics were ‘God-Touched’

Nautical Fever: Typhus on board ship

Necrosis: Death of cells, tissue or bone through injury or disease

Ohara's Fever: Tularaemia

Overlaid/Overlain: To lie over or upon a child so as to cause the child  to suffocate 

Pea-picker's Disease: Leptospirosis

Phosphorus Necrosis of the Jaw: Disease caused by contact or use of white phosphorous poisoning, often seen in matchmakers. Disease characterised by deterioration of bone especially lower jaw

Phthisis: Tuberculosis

Plague of Venus: Syphilis

Quick Consumption: Faster onset of tuberculosis symptoms, Galloping Consumption

Quintana Fever: Trench Fever

Rag-Pickers Disease: Malignant pustule and febrile disease probably anthrax, caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis

Ratcatchers’ Disease: Caused by Leptospirosis a bacterial disease often found in urine of rodents, (also known as Weil's syndrome, Mud fever, Field fever, Canefield fever, 7 day fever, Black Jaundice) Can also be the Bubonic Plague depending on time period and occurrence of plague among rats in the area

Rising of the Lights: Believed to be pleurisy, croup or some infection of the lungs

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Acute rickettsial disease (Rickettsia rickettsia) transmitted by ticks. Major symptoms similar to epidemic typhus (headache, joint and back pain, prostration high fever which can progress to neurological symptoms and death).The rash covers whole body including palms and soles of feet. The 20-25% fatality rate in untreated patients makes it the most severe rickettsial infection in the Americas. Can also occur in Canada, the USA Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama and Brazil. Also known as Black Measles, Blue Disease due to the dark rash

Roseola Infantum: Sudden rash affecting infants and younger children caused by a virus Human Herpes Virus 6B or Human Herpes Virus 7 also known as Sixth Disease

Saint Gothard Anaemia: Hookworm

Scarlet Fever: Fever caused by a bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes generally presents as very sore throat, rash and fever. Before the availability of antibiotics, scarlet fever was a major cause of death. It also sometimes caused late complications, such as glomerulonephritis and endocarditis leading to heart valve disease (Rheumatic Fever), all of which were protracted illnesses and often fatal

Scurvy: Caused by lack of vitamin C which is required for collagen production in humans. Seen most often in sailors, soldiers or in starvation situations e.g. Irish Famine where people are unable to obtain fresh fruit or vegetables. Characterised by softening of the gums, haemorrhages under the skin and general debility can lead to death

Senectus Ultima: Old age

Sore Throat Distemper: Diphtheria or quinsy

Spanish Flu: Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919. So called as Spain at the time had no censorship of its newspapers and the outbreak was heavily reported there before being reported in countries with censorship due to World War One (even though illnesses had already occurred in those places). Exact origin of this strain of the influenza virus not known, postulated it could be the USA or China or indeed Europe

St Erasmus Disease: Colic

St Fiacre’s Disease: Haemorrhoids

St Gervasius Disease: Rheumatism

St Gete’s Disease: Carcinoma

St Gile’s Disease: Leprosy or Carcinoma

St Hubert’s Disease: Hydrophobia, rabies

St Job’s Disease: see Syphilis

St John’s Dance: see St Vitus Dance

St John’s Evil:  Epilepsy

St Main’s Disease: Scabies

St Vitus Dance: Also called Sydenham's chorea. Characterised by jerky, uncontrollable movements associated with rheumatic fever caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes

Stonemason’s Lung: Occupational Lung disease suffered by stonemasons due to inhalation of stone dust

Summer Complaint: Diarrhoea usually in infants/young children.. Possibly from spoiled food or milk which is more likely to spoil in summer

Thresher’s Fever: Acute inflammation of the lungs caused by a hypersensitivity reaction of the lung after contact with mould spores from hay, straw and other crops. Occupational disease

Throat Fever: Probably scarlet fever or could be diphtheria

Trench Foot: Condition caused by prolonged exposure to damp, cold, unsanitary conditions. Foot becomes cold, numb, mildly swollen. If untreated can progress to blisters and ulcers, tissue dies resulting in gangrene Particular problem on the western Front in World War One

Tuberculosis: Infectious disease of humans and animals caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis and characterised by the formation of tubercles on the lungs (around 90% of the time) and other tissues of the body, often developing long after the initial infection. The M. tuberculosis complex consists of four other TB-causing mycobacteria: M. bovis, M. africanum, M. canetti, and M. microti. M. bovis was once a very common form of tuberculosis but this has markedly decreased as a public health issue with the advent of pasteurised milk in developed countries. The other three mycobacteria are rarer causes of tuberculosis

Tularaemia: Infectious disease caused by the intracellular bacterium Francisella tularensis. Found in rabbits, hares and pikas in North America. The disease is named after Tulare County, California. (also Pahvant Valley Plague, Rabbit Fever, Deer Fly Fever, or Ohara’s Fever)

Typhoid Fever: An enteric fever caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhi. This was not known in earlier days so Typhoid and Typhus which had many similar symptoms were often confused. Typhoid was often more common in the summer months and warmer weather

Typhoid Fever of India: Asiastic Cholera

Typhus: caused by the Rickettsia bacterium (Rickettsia prowazeki) transmitted by bites from lice (particularly the human body louse). The epidemic or classic form is louse borne; the endemic or murine is flea borne. It is marked by high continued fever lasting from two to three weeks, stupor alternating with delirium, intense headache and by a copious eruption of dark red spots upon the body. Thirty percent plus of patients die. More commonly seen in winter potentially as spread by bite of insect with the colder weather clothes were not changed as often although can occur all year around

Variola: Smallpox, highly contagious viral disease characterised by fever and weakness and skin eruption with pustules that form scabs that slough off leaving scars in around 65-80% survivors. Has around 30-35% mortality rate. Blindness occurs in around 5% survivors. Last case seen in 1977 and the disease is believed to be eradicated

Variola Major: Most severe and most common form of smallpox, had around 30-35% mortality rate

Variola Minor: A milder form of smallpox causing less mortality (only about 1% of cases are fatal compared to 30-35% in Variola major

Variola Sine Eruptione: Smallpox with rash seen in some vaccinated people

War Fever: Epidemic Typhus caused by the Rickettsia bacterium transmitted by bites from human body louse see Typhus

White Plague: Tuberculosis

Yellow Fever: An acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by bite of mosquito A. aegypti infected with a Flavivirus. Found in Africa south of the Sahara and equatorial South America. (Yellow jack, American Plague, Bronze John, Dock Fever)