Linda Corupe

The Doctor Is In

One area of research that is not commonly pursued are the records left behind related to the health issues of our ancestors. There are a great variety of these, many of which can be useful to the genealogist. For example, Dr. John Hutchison of Peterborough kept a register of the births which he attended, ranging from 1817-1846. Records of the prescriptions issued by several pharmacies in the 19th and early 20th centuries can be consulted at the Archives of Ontario. Prominent among surviving health records are those relating to mental issues. Patient records of several of the early asylums in the province have survived, and family members are often mentioned in the case histories of those unfortunate people. Other such afflicted individuals were sometimes housed in the local jails, where registers reveal their personal details. The rampage of cholera throughout our province in 1832 and again in 1834 left behind newspaper reports, sometimes with names given; there are also church records, hospital records and lists of orphans left behind by the epidemics. Another overlooked source is the multitude of advertisements for patent medicines, so popular in the 19th century newspapers. These advertisements often contain testimonials, showing the name and address of the satisfied customers, and in some cases, even sketches. The presence of poor health and disease were also sometimes successfully used as the basis for petitions requesting reductions in jail sentences. This workshop will discuss how to access these health records, and the types of information that can be found therein.