Wednesday, 9 April 2014

H is for hospital records

During the nineteenth century, many of my forebears and the forebears of my husband Greg lived in the Victorian goldfields area.

There were several hospitals in the goldfields and their admission records have been preserved and indexed. The indexes of the hospital records help answer some answers to family history questions such as on what ship the patient came to Australia.

The Maryborough hospital collected information about port of embarkation, name of ship, number of years in colonies. Apparently this information was collected as part of a disease tracking program.

On 5 March 1872 Margaret Plowright née Smyth, Greg's great great grandmother, was admitted to Maryborough Hospital. According to the index of the hospital admission record, she was 37 years old, married, from Homebush, and a Wesleyan. She had arrived in the colony seventeen years previously on the Persian. The index does not tell us what her illness was.

The passenger lists for the Persian are available at the Public Records Office of Victoria. However, with a common surname such as Smyth it is useful to confirm that we were looking at the immigration of the right woman.

Margaret's husband, John Plowright, came to Australia as a seaman and does not appear on any passenger list.  However, when he was admitted to Maryborough Hospital in 1873, he stated he had been in the colony for 20 years arriving on the Speculation.  His gave his occupation as mariner even though he had been a miner for 20 years. It is possible that the occupation was misheard by the clerk similar to the pirate / pilot confusion in The Pirates of Penzance.

Maryborough District Hospital [ca. 1866] photograph retrieved from the State Library of Victoria

I have previously blogged about the hospital admission of another of Greg's great great grandfathers, James Cross, who lost the use of a hand following the infection of a wound from a splinter. James was admitted to Ballarat Hospital in 1869. The hospital collected information about how long he had been in the colony, his age and his birthplace, but did not ask which ship he had arrived on.

NEWS AND NOTES. (1869, February 16). The Ballarat Star (Vic. : 1865 - 1870), p. 2. Retrieved October 1, 2013, from

The index to the Victorian Goldfields Hospitals' Admissions produced by the Genealogical Society of Victoria is available on microfiche and CD and has been purchased by many family history societies.  The index is well worth exploring if your family lived on the goldfields.