Since moving to London, Ada Heathwaite had lost more than half of her children. The numbers in the 1911 census are glaring and painful: twelve children born, eight dead. Those numbers, as well as the location of London, hint to me of a possible, practically unknown source that might give me more information on the Heathwaite family’s life.
In 2001, the Historic Hospital Admission Registers Project (HHARP), at www.hharp.org, was created to give access to late 19th century and early 20th century records from admissions to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, called GOSH on the website. The GOSH database was completed in 2007 and starting this year databases for the Evelina Hospital, the Alexandria Hospital for Children with Hip Disease and the Glasgow hospital were started as well. Unlike hospitals in several countries today, British hospitals were charitable institutions, allowing for people of all social stations to receive service there. In the “About the Project” tab at the top there is information about each hospital, what is available in those records and what years they cover.
Be warned, however, that not all parts of the admission papers were filled in. For example, in the Glasgow hospital there are categories for information about parents, but it wasn’t until I found the admission papers for Maggie Smith, admitted 20 June 1893, that I was able to find those categories filled. The database is free to search, and if you’re interested, registration is free. The site is also valuable for the write ups and articles it has on medical terms, the hospital (such as Great Ormond Street’s Milk Department), and life at the time. The database includes photographs and images, as well as case studies on interesting patients.
I used the HHARP website with this research project to see if I could find any of the Heathwaite babies being admitted. I simply went to “Search” without even logging in, and put the name Heathwaite into the surname box of Personal details. Unfortunately, this search only brought up two results, both for Albert Heathwaite, with admittance dates within six months of each other. Each had the verifying address of 222 Sandringham Building, where John Heathwaite worked. It was unfortunate I was unable to find more information about the children that died, but looking at Albert’s first admission, I believe Ada must have been terrified. His diagnosis was unknown, but he was placed in the diphtheria ward. Diphtheria is a highly contagious disease which spreads like wildfire in places where there is poor sanitation and overcrowding. This source leads me to the next one and the next step in learning about the Heathwaites.
We will explore further in the next article in this series.