Talks by Helen V Smith

Over the past two days I have attended talks by Helen Smith. Last night’s talk Where to From Here was at the Coffs Harbour City Library and this afternoon’s session Death Certificates and Archaic Medical Terms was hosted by the Coffs Harbour Family History Society.
Both talks very well presented. Although I have been researching my family history since the late 1970s there is always something new to learn.
What am I going to do as a direct result of these talks?
  1. I had not thought of trying to trace some of my gggg grandmother Anne Moylan’s children using the surname of their stepfather. 2 sons, Thomas and John kept the name Moylan/Mylan and I have traced their lines. However, I can’t find James or William. I’ll try and look for them with the name Powell.

    2. I’m going to buy a copy from Abebooks of an old medical dictionary. Many years ago I had taken a few notes about the causes of death of the inhabitants of Franklin in Tasmania. My great great grandfather was the doctor and there from 1855 until his death in 1871. I was interested to see what cases he may have attended.

    3. Download more podcasts from The National Archives. I have previously listened to several of these podcasts but then gradually forgot about them. It’s always great to be reminded of something you’ve known about but neglected. However, I live so close to work that it’s almost not worth listening to anything while driving.

    4. Work out what all the causes of death on my death certificates really mean. 

    Here is a list of some of the causes of deaths of members of my family.
    • scarlatina maligna
    • influenza 
    • pneumonia
    • inanition
    • infirm
    • senile decay
    • cerebral haemorrhage
    • fractured ribs, pneumonia, congestion brain
    • myocarditis, heart failure
    • syncope
    • found drowned but how he got into the water there is no evidence to show
    • transverse myelitis
    • bronchitis
    • old age and paralysis
    • cancer of throat
    • degeneration of all tissues - cancer of lower jaw and chin
    • disease of lungs
    • chronic nephritis
    • subacute pneumonia exhaustion
    • vomiting due to umbilical hernia
    • fever after confinement
    • tabes mesenterica
    • carcinoma of the liver (disseminated)
    • acute cholecystitis
    • mitral regurgitation
    • fractured patella and shock
    • decay of nature
    • age and general debility
    • concussion of brain
    • haemorrhage after childbirth


    1. It was good to meet you when I was down there with Helen. How many of the deaths on your list were the subject of an inquest? 'Found drowned' should be - but has the file survived? I have done a lot of work with 19th and early 20th century Justice Department inquest files, so I know that a magisterial enquiry was held for many deaths from natural causes. In some cases involving a death in childbirth, it sounded as they were keen to pin the blame on the midwife!


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