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.