52 Documents in 52 Weeks #47: Hospital Records

Hospital records. What can I say about them? They are probably one of the most difficult type of record to find or access. Privacy laws make access to records less than 100 years old almost impossible to retrieve unless one is a close family member and can prove relationship to the patient. Records more than 100 years old are often lost to time. Add that to the fact that we might not have any reason to suspect that an ancestor was hospitalized and it is easy to see why very few researchers have located medical records for any ancestor.

Having said that, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that they aren’t available or even digitized and online.

I can’t say I was surprised to find a record set of Boston City Hospital Admissions, 1867-1870 on the AmericanAncestors website. New England records are plentiful and many different kinds of records have survived, particularly in Massachusetts.

If you are lucky enough to find hospital registers from the 1800s, what kind of information might you find in them?

Here is the first entry in 1867 for one Hannah Malone, wife, aged 30, hospitalized for injuries suffered in a fall.

She was admitted to Ward C and received free board.


Hannah Malone, page 2

 Further, the record states she was born in Ireland and lives at 26 Boardman Street. She was well when she was discharged on 11 December 1867. The remaining columns appear to refer to medical terms.

Hannah Malone is a common name, but she may be the Hannah Malone, aged 33, living in Peabody, Essex, Massachusetts in 1870 with husband John and children, Catharine, Mary and Honora. she is also the only Hannah Malone enumerated  in Massachusetts and she is the right age to be the hospitalized Hannah Malone.


Malone Family, 1870

I wonder what type of fall Hannah suffered, but unless Boston General Hospital still has complete patient records back that far, the rest of her story will never be known.

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