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.
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). 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. 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.
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
 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.
 Queensland State Archives Item ID2903, Case book, Microfilm Z1626, page 509.
11 thoughts on “Beyond the Internet: Week 17 Hospital records”
For my book Asylum on the Hill: History of a Healing Landscape (Ohio University Press, 2012) I spent years in the archives of a state mental hospital in Athens, Ohio. As a researcher I was given access to these medical records; family members of patients also have access. The records I used were from 1874 and about a century thereafter. There are admission documents, a case book from the early years, death records, and a grave book.
Thanks for your comments Katherine. Your information will confirm just how useful these records can be. Let’s hope lots of people are inspired to follow up for their own families.
Yes, they contain many details not only clinical but also about family history.
Thanks Katherine..much to find.
Thanks for linking to my genealogy Web site. I just wanted to let you know that it has moved to http://www.judywebster.com.au (my own domain name, without the ‘.gil’).