Tag Archives: Medicine

Cause of Death: Chilblain, Phthisis, Ship Fever or Paroxysm? What Are They?

Have you been fortunate enough to locate vital records for ancestors, but have been flummoxed by causes of death?

I’ve learned alternate names for several common diseases, such as phthisis, consumption and wasting for tuberculosis, but there have been several other instances where I’ve gone scurrying to an online search engine to understand archaic terms.

Yes, it’s easy enough to search out definitions for single words, but it is even easier to bookmark websites that offer free compilations of obsolete medical diagnoses.

Here are several suggestions that you might want to look at:

Glossary of Old Medical Terms Used in the 18th & 19th Centuries

Cyndi’s List – Medical Terms

Hall Genealogy Website – Illnesses Encountered in Genealogy

Access Genealogy – Old Medical Terms and Diseases

RootsWeb – Old Medical Terminology

Genealogy Quest – Medical Terminology

GenProxy – Old Archaic Medical Terms

Each of these resources include many definitions, but I found unique entries in each one.

Therefore, any single website will suffice for most searches. However, if your research brings up a rarer type of disease, try these other websites. At least one of them will most likely answer the question “What do we call it today?”

As for the title of this post, I’ve already mentioned that phthisis is tuberculosis. What about the other diseases?

Chilblain is swelling and inflammation caused by exposure to cold temperatures.

Ship fever is typhus.

Paroxysm is a convulsion.

Every researcher should bookmark a website that defines archaic medical terms!