Online launch of St George’s historical post mortem records
Following a £160,000 Wellcome grant for the project ‘Opening Up the Body: The Post Mortem Case Books of St George's Hospital’, the Archives team are making available the first batch of catalogued post mortem records.
The project, which has seen these valuable records carefully conserved and digitised, is now in its final phase, which involves cataloguing and researching the records by the project archivists Juulia Ahvensalmi and Natasha Shillingford. The collection as a whole consists of 102 volumes, and runs from 1841 to 1946. Due to sensitivity of the material, however, only records up to 1920 will be catalogued and available during this phase of the project - this is still over 27,000 cases. The Archives team will be regularly adding more records to the catalogue, so do keep an eye on it!
Alongside digital images of each case – some of which contain illustrations and even photographs – the catalogue records include information about the patients (name, age, gender, occupation, the disease(s) of which they died) and a brief summary of the case notes. The names of the diseases have been transcribed, as well as standardised using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), to make searching the catalogue easier, and subject access points enable browsing the cases by disease types (such as respiratory tract diseases) and anatomy (for instance all the cases affecting the nervous system).
For those interested in the doctors of St George’s, the catalogue includes authority records for each of the doctors recorded in the volumes. For example, you can browse all the cases of Henry Gray or one of the first female doctors at St George’s, Helen Ingleby.
These records are freely available online, and will hopefully become a well-used resource offering plentiful material for anyone interested in medical and social history, genealogy or the history of St George’s. The post mortem volumes contain a wealth of information about the diseases and causes of death in the 19th and early 20th century London, as well as the lives of the patients attending the hospital, charting previous pandemics such as the 1918 influenza, and other outbreaks of diseases including the deadly cholera epidemic in Soho in 1854. They show the prevalence of diseases such as tuberculosis, but feature also rarer diseases and ailments including leprosy, hysteria and rabies.
For regular updates on new uploads and highlights from the project, you can follow the archive on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
If you have any questions or comments about the project please contact the Archives team.