I don’t know where the days are going, but it’s Saturday yet again and time for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun with Randy Seaver.
Here is our challenge for this week:
1) What is the best or most important image or document that you have recently found online?
I didn’t have to think twice about this one. I’ve no idea how many webinars, talks or Genealogy meetings I’ve attended where the question comes up about accessing patient records of any kind.
Some states are really strict and it’s virtually impossible without a court order, regardless of how long ago the person died, while other places aren’t strict at all, but either have no extant records to access or else the medical files are inaccessible due to storage.
I never really had any cause to seek out hospital records, until very recently.
My 4X great grandfather, William Tarbox, died on 22 May 1860 – I thought in New Gloucester, Cumberland, Maine, where he lived his entire life and where the town clerk has his death recorded.
The 1860 mortality schedule told a different story – he died at the Maine Insane Hospital, about 50 miles from home in Augusta, Kennebec, Maine.
I googled information about the hospital and, to my surprise, it said the Maine State Archives holds the patient records from 1840-1910!
I was more than surprised, I was downright shocked when I called the Archives and was told that not only do they have the records, but they just finished a big digitization project and those records were accessible online for free!
William’s story was sad, but he only lived at the hospital for 20 days. His patient record is but one page long, but has several entries, including the details that he was depressed, refused all food and medicine and the last words he spoke were to a friend who came to visit – “Get out of my room.”
The record ends with the notation that he died about midnight on 22 May 1860. Unlike many patients, William wasn’t buried at the hospital. His family brought him home to New Gloucester for burial.
This is, by far, one of the most interesting records I’ve ever come across in all my years of researching.
Thanks, Randy. I look forward to SNGF every weekend.