Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Don't Forget the Midwife ... Some useful Sources

Nurse Elizabeth Phillips
Where a village like Preston is well covered by a local historian with an excellent web site such as A History of Preston in Hertfordshire I am delighted as I can relax as there is no point in duplicating what is already online and I can simply point the visitor to the appropriate URL., and pass on useful updates via this newsletter.
Philip has just posted an interesting account of Preston's first midwife which makes interesting reading - and includes some interesting general information on childbirth and midwifery. It also highlights two useful sources of information I had not considered.
The first is that Ancestry have now included some information on midwives to add to there collection of useful sources.
The second relates to the Hertfordshire Cohort Study - which is a major clinical research study based on the finding of records of births and early infancy for children born in Hertfordshire between 1911 and 1939. Records were kept of child's name, data and weight at birth, together with weight at one year, vaccination history and first school at five, and some other detail, and this can now be related to what happened (and in many cases is still happening) later in life. Similar records were probably kept elsewhere but have not survived, while most, but not all for Hertfordshire have survived. I remember, many years ago, there was a news article in the Hemel Hempstead Gazette about the discovery of a book of old maternity records which had been saved from ending up in a skip and how useful they would prove to be. However I had not realized how important they were.
None of my immediate family are part of the study as my mother was born in Hemel Hempstead in 1908 and while I was born in St Albans in 1938 the St Albans records have not survived - and in any case would not have included information on my weight at one year, etc, because my parents moved to SOmerset when I was 11 months old.
Of course the files contain medical information on living people so the detailed information, such as whether a child was breast-fed, is not yet available to genealogists but there are some interesting statistical findings.

Quite by chance the question of birth came up at the recent St Albans History Conference. Roger (who has previously corresponded with this site) asked a question, relating to Bernards Heath. I happened to mention I was born on the other side of the road, and he commented that he had been born at "Hazeldene" at about the same time. ... As it happens my son was born in a nursing home in Exeter but both my daughters were born at home in Tring, with midwife care and grandma (a trained nurse) available to help as necessary.

 So do you know whether your ancestors were born at home - or in a nursing home, or in a hospital, or did they go to their mother's house for the actual birth?

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