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January 2009

Welcome to the first issue of 2009, in which we are focusing on the medical profession, as well as looking at mental health and the lunatic asylums. 

 Bo the Bodger has been able to trace her long line of medical ancestors back to the late 18th century and Mary from Italy has discovered an Army surgeon, who was in Boston, Massachusetts, at the time of the American Revolution.

 We have stories about nursing ancestors from Chrissie Smiff and anniern, and Merry Monty Montgomery recalls her late aunt’s first experience of the use of Penicillin, as well as writing about Bedford Pierce, a pioneer in the treatment of the mentally ill. 

 This month we focus on the hospital at Stoke Mandeville and Geraldine delves into its history. 

 Velma Dinkley reports on the recent release of records from the Victorian period for Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire and of the exhibition of artefacts at Reading Museum, as well as writing about her relative who was terrified of the asylum. 

 Guinevere brings us the sad story of her ancestor who was committed, and Little Nell explains how she discovered her connection to ‘The Mad Pork Butcher’, Jacob Isenschmidt, the man arrested on suspicion of being the Whitechapel Murderer in 1888.

 For the family treasure feature, jennie tells us why a ship’s compass, which has recently come into her possession, is very special to her. 

 We hope that you enjoy reading the stories this month and that they inspire you to research similar ones in your family history. 

The Medical Profession

Georgette takes a look at the training of the medical professions, with special attention paid to doctors, nurses and midwives, including the surgeons frowned upon for cutting up bodies to learn anatomy and the quack doctors who sold their dubious cure-all remedies....

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Army Surgeon in Revolutionary America

By the 1770s, tension between England and its American colony was running high. The American colonists were becoming increasingly angry at the imposition of taxes, and the straw that broke the camel’s back was the highly unpopular tea tax. The Tea Act of 1773 led...

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A Dynasty of Doctors

At least eight other members of the Mallet family belonged to the medical profession. Jonathan’s youngest brother, John Mallet, born c1745, followed in his footsteps, becoming an army surgeon and serving in the American War of Independence. He was appointed Surgeon of...

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A Nightingale Nurse

One family story that I remember my mother telling me about was that of my grandfather's aunt, Rebecca Horne. The story, as it was passed down to me, was that she had been engaged to the son of a local lord, Lord Redesdale, who had died in a riding accident just...

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The Miracle Cure

Betty Pauline Clark (1920-2005) was my maternal aunt who worked as a nurse. She began her nurse's training in February 1944 and was completely devoted to her job, until she was forced to retire through ill health in 1978. The main parts of her career involved working...

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The Ideal Temperament

I had an aunt, Doris Morley, who was a nurse, and a great aunt, Rose Mary Ann Morley, who was a midwife. Doris was born in Nottingham in 1904 and was a lovely lady who was kind and gentle, yet sensible and practical. In fact the ideal temperament to become a nurse....

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My Medical Moxons

On my maternal grandmother, Phyllys Pleasance Case's side of the family the medical profession are well represented, however I have only recently started researching this line and they do appear to be very good with the smokescreens which they left behind. The...

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Mental Health and the Lunatic Asylums

There has always been a proportion of the population who have suffered from mental health problems. However, up until the 20th century, it was a poorly understood subject, with many people sent to the lunatic asylum for a wide variety of conditions. These  ranged from...

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The Secret World of Victorian Broadmoor

In 2004, Broadmoor Hospital in Crowthorne, Berkshire, deposited their archive with the Berkshire Record Office in Reading. With financial assistance from the Wellcome Trust, the project staff have spent the last four years repairing and cataloguing the collection of...

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Bedford Pierce

Words such as lunatic, insane, idiot and mental asylum don’t sit comfortably in today’s world, but in Victorian England these terms were entirely commonplace when referring to mental illness. Asylums were grim places where people with all sorts of problems were...

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William’s Sad Story

By 1881 almost all of Mum’s living ancestors were in Ebbw Vale in the Welsh valleys of Monmouthshire. They had arrived there from various parts of Wales and Somerset, and the men were working in the steelworks or down one of the many pits in the area. It was fairly...

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Terrified of the Asylum

When I first started researching my family, my cousin told me that she once heard a story of how our maternal grandmother’s uncle had drowned in a pond, so I set out to discover who it was. My grandmother, Josephine Packham, was born in 1907 in Fletching, Sussex. Her...

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The Ripper Suspect

My great grandfather, Charles Williams, was widowed and left with seven children in 1906. He remarried in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, in 1907, and as I knew nothing about my step great grandmother, Kate, I set out to discover more about her by firstly obtaining...

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The Ship’s Compass

I have always felt a close connection to my maternal grandfather, Ralph Donovan Williams, although I never actually met him, as he sadly passed away whilst my mum was just a few weeks pregnant with me. However, I've been told that he was a very loving family man, who...

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Stoke Mandeville

{xtypo_dropcap}O{/xtypo_dropcap}n hearing the name 'Stoke Mandeville', many people would automatically think 'hospital', but why is it there? The hospital originated as a cholera hospital in the 1830s. The village of Stoke Mandeville was badly hit by...

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