Free website reveals health of London ancestors

By Jon Bauckham, 31 October 2013 - 4:49pm

London’s Pulse provides online access to more than 5,500 health reports, offering an insight into the lives of the capital's citizens over the course of 125 years

Thursday 31 October 2013
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Close-up of a map showing deaths in London’s Metropolitan Boroughs, taken from an MOH report for Camberwell, 1905. See the full version by clicking here © Wellcome Library

Researchers can now learn about the ailments of their London ancestors thanks to a new online resource.

On Monday (28 October), the Wellcome Library unveiled London’s Pulse, a free website containing more than 5,500 highly detailed reports on the health of the capital’s citizens between 1848 to 1973.

Supported by JISC, each document has been scanned from the original printed material, which is held by the Wellcome Library and the London Metropolitan Archives.

The reports were created by Medical Officers of Health (MOH), qualified medical practitioners who were appointed to oversee public health and sanitary conditions in each corner of the city.

Carrying out their inspections on an annual basis, the MOHs covered a wide variety of topics, ranging from attendance levels at maternity clinics to the number of boils lanced in the borough.

With each page digitally transcribed, users can search the collection by details such as keyword, date and region. Once a relevant entry has been found, the connected images and pages can be downloaded free of charge.

The website also hosts around 275,000 tables of data extracted from the reports, enabling genealogists to chart key trends and gain a better overall picture of life in their ancestor’s parish.

"The Medical Officers of Health reports provide a fascinating portrait of London life and the lives of Londoners,” says Simon Chaplin, Head of the Wellcome Library.

“London's Pulse opens up a wealth of information about Londoners’ homes and workplaces, food and drink and of course health and illness, and enables researchers and curious readers to search and cross reference the reports with ease.”
 

take it further

► Search and download the reports for free at wellcomelibrary.org/moh/

 

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