Family Notes - March 2016
This is a sample of the information provided to members of the P*rr*tt Society in the most recent edition of Family Notes. Family Notes is a 56-page printed magazine that is distributed to society members every quarter.
What do you know about the health of your ancestors? In the case of my Perrett family, I know that great-great-grandfather Charles William Perrett died from a stroke in 1918. His daughter Sarah Mabel suffered the same fate in 1961 and – while preparing for her funeral – another daughter, Ella, had a heart attack and also died. Two of their siblings – Charles Oliver John and my great-grandmother, Clarissa, had Type 2 diabetes and another, Maria Louise, ended her life in a mental hospital, though her cause of death is recorded as pernicious anaemia. The children were perhaps rather lucky to have survived infancy, given that their father did not believe in vaccination and was fined on at least one occasion for failing to have them vaccinated!
This I know from death certificates, newspaper reports and family stories, but where can we look to find out more?
If you’re looking for hospital records, try searching the National Archives Hospital Records Database here: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/hospitalrecords/ – this will tell you which hospital records exist for a particular town, where they are held and for which dates (it’s a good idea to double-check with record offices before you visit – many records are closed for 100 years to maintain patient confidentiality). When I searched for ‘Bridgwater’ I found that records from Bridgwater General Hospital and the Mary Stanley Maternity Home can be found at Somerset Heritage Centre.
Ancestry has some hospital records available, some of which are surprisingly detailed. For example:
Another place to look for details of your family medical history is military records. At the very least, these will usually provide you with details of an ancestor’s height and weight, hair colour, eye colour and other basic details.
In some cases – particularly if an individual was wounded or discharged – more information can be found. Take the example of David Perrett, a labourer from Manningford Abbas, Wiltshire, who signed up to serve in the Army on 4th September 1914.
From his pension records we learn that David was 5ft 2.5ins tall and weighed 121lbs, with 6/6 (perfect) vision in both eyes and 5 vaccination marks on his left arm. He was discharged on 8th October 1914, his records stating that he had extreme hammer toes on both feet, chronic rheumatism and was generally unfit.
Another example – Godfrey Parrott of Alton, Hampshire, signed up aged 18 in 1891. He was 5ft 4ins tall and weighed 119lbs, with three moles between his shoulders on his back. He suffered a contusion of his spine in January 1893 and a contusion of his left arm in April 1897.
He served until 1915, when he was hospitalised with vomiting and swelling in his feet and back after being in the trenches for 28 days. He was noted to have chronic nephritis and was discharged in July 1915.
Observations on his condition at this time state: “He is pale and anaemic persistently losing flesh, weak heart sounds and oedema of back and feet. There is a copious amount of albumen in his urine. Was operated on in 1913 for duodenal ulceration. Has some dilatation of colon”. Sadly, Godfrey died the year after he was discharged.
The library at the Wellcome Collection in London houses a wealth of documents relating to medical matters. You can browse their digital collection here: http://wellcomelibrary.org/collections/digital-collections/ . Whilst this may not contain a great deal of information pertaining to specific individuals, it can be helpful to put the health of your ancestors into some sort of context.
It is also useful to know about disease epidemics that may have affected your family, particularly if you have a spate of deaths around the same date. My great-great-great-aunt, Hannah Browning Payne (nee Hoyal), for example, lost three little girls under the age of 5 in the space of a week in 1876 when an outbreak of diphtheria hit Cleveland, Ohio. Major epidemics are listed online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_epidemics however you can also search newspapers to see if more localised outbreaks were reported.
One interesting website is the Historical Hospital Admission Records Project (HHARP) – www.hharp.org – which has records from children’s hospital in London and Glasgow. P*rr*tt entries on their database include:
Some of these childhood illnesses – in the days before the NHS – provide an indication of the family’s social circumstances. It is sad to read of children with conditions such as starvation and wasting.
So what do you know about your ancestors and their medical history? Is there a condition that runs in the family? Have you come across any useful resources that might be of interest to other members? Please do let us know!
It's in the Papers...
Letters to the editor can provide an interesting insight into the thoughts and personalities of our ancestors, as this selection demonstrates ….
BEDFORDSHIRE TIMES & INDEPENDENT (Bedford, England) – 1st December 1944
Sir. – May I, through the medium of your paper, bring to the notice of those who may be responsible or interested the unsatisfactory method of booking seats for the fortnightly Symphony Concerts of the B.B.C. The advertisement states that no booking are accepted before the Wednesday of the following week, but on calling at Messrs. Fraser’s within a quarter of an hour of their opening I am informed that there is not a ticket left but that, if any should be returned, I might perhaps be sufficiently fortunate to secure one. I am probably one of many who like to take the opportunity of hearing good music whenever possible, but with so many personal duties to perform cannot keep making inquiries for any tickets which may be returned by those who in some way have been more fortunate than myself in procuring them. Is there any satisfactory explanation to the position? (Mrs.) D. S. PARROTT, Howbury Street, Bedford.
THE AGE (Melbourne, Australia) – 14th August 1942
I point out to “60th Battalion” that liberty and freedom, without restraint or discipline, soon degenerates into licence, which leads to all the abuses the so-called Puritans are fighting against. There is no desire to interfere with the person who is capable of using his freedom intelligently, but the half-wits – those incapable of using a privilege – must be protected against themselves, and the younger people safeguarded against a detrimental influence. Rules and regulations are made because of the lawless, not the law abiding citizens, and all real liberty lovers will appreciate any restriction that will put a stop to excessive drinking. (Mrs.) N. PERROTT, Sandringham.
GLOUCESTER JOURNAL (Gloucester, England) – 3rd November 1917
Pte. Alfred Perrett, Gloucester Regt., “a Quedgeley lad but a Gloucestrian at heart,” writes us as follows from Mesopotamia, under date August 27th: – Being a reader of the famous old “Citizen” and “Journal”, which are sadly missed out here, where there are a tidy few from the old city and suburbs, I thought I would drop you a few lines to let you know that the ------- is still in battle harness. I myself haven’t been with them long, but I soon ran across some old pals I knew, some of whom had taken part in the Dardanelles affair. L.-Corpl. Bruce Brown, Cecil-road, is here, also Pte. Moody, Weston-road; Sergt. Gatfield, from Adelaide-street, and Quartermaster Lawrence as well as a few of the old Gloucester boys.
At present I’m at a rest camp near the old city of Bagdad, having come from the regiment to see an eye specialist. While there I had just a glimpse of Bagdad, but not enough to describe it in detail. I had a walk along New-street while I was there, but I’d sooner walk down Southgate-street or Barton-street, Gloucester. I saw a “Citizen” and “Journal” which had managed to forge their way out here, and they went through a great number of hands for the contents to be read. Even the old familiar advertisements were read to the last letter. I expect the old city is looking rather quiet now, isn’t it, sir? But when we get back I’ll promise you we’ll do our best to liven it up. To some of the boys it will be like letting starved lions loose when they get outside the Station. Good luck to the day when it comes.
It’s still very hot, but the cooler days are coming on, so they say. Well, I must close now, wishing you and all the people of the old city the best of luck. – P. S.: I can’t get a camel in this envelope or else I’d send one as a souvenir, as they are quite common out here.
QUEENSLAND COUNTRY LIFE (Australia) – 8th January 1942
Mr. Keith H. Perrett, Stuart’s Creek, Hunterton, Roma, writes: – A punch hole to denote speyed cows is definitely a failure where a stockman has to handle hundreds and thousands of cattle at a time. We cannot afford to waste time in finding a little hole in the ear, when a schedule of work is allotted to be finished in a certain time. Some registered earmarks chop almost half the ear away, and to have a hole in the centre of that is almost impossible. It is easy to see that the men in the stock department have never handled large mobs of cattle. I stand by Mr. J. Gordon’s remark on dewlapping.
THE MAITLAND DAILY MERCURY (Australia) – 23rd July 1895
Sir – Seeing an account in your paper about the fish in the Hunter, I think I can throw some light on the subject. I have seen the same thing repeatedly in dry seasons when it has been cold weather, the same as we have been having of late. It is the snow water coming into the river that blinds them. I can’t tell you how it acts on them, I will leave that to some one else, but you will find I am about right about the snow water coming into the river. Being a native of Singleton, and 60 years of age, I have had something to do with fishing. If this is any use to you, I send it for what it is worth. It is not a disease. Yours respectfully, GEORGE PERRETT, Singleton.
A P*RR*TT PHOTO GALLERY
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