Since 2000 a team of GSV volunteers has been compiling a searchable database of the names and details of patients who were in the Melbourne Hospital (now The Royal Melbourne Hospital) from 1855 to 1909.
These patient 'case histories' were recorded in Ward Books, which have been held in the archives of the hospital. There are estimated to be over 2,000 Ward Books held in the archives but, sadly, many more have disappeared.
The Ward Books are leather-bound books measuring 32 cm by 15 cm, with the name of the doctor for that ward, the ward number and the gender of the patients embossed in gold on the cover. Each book contains about 100 numbered pages, interleaved with pages of pink blotting paper. By arrangement with the Royal Melbourne hospital, the GSV team has so far indexed 824 Ward Books from the period 1855–1909 and extracted the faded, water-stained and often badly written details of 87,298 patients. These books have then been transferred to Public Record Office Victoria (PROV). Not all the books from this period have been indexed yet, but the GSV intends to continue indexing the remainder of those 2,000 books.
The results of this work have now been published by the GSV in a database searchable by name, as Patients in Melbourne Hospital 1855–1909 (GSV, 2016). This edition includes books indexed in the earlier edition.
Every indexed name is hyperlinked to a set of details extracted from that patient’s medical record in the Ward Book. These details contain the patient’s name, age, and admission date together with some or all of the following: the patient’s biography; birth place; the ship on which the person travelled to Australia and its arrival date; whether married, widowed or single; occupation; religion; residence and the result of treatment. The patient’s disease or complaint has been omitted by agreement with The Royal Melbourne Hospital but this can be ascertained by personally viewing the Ward Book at PROV, or by using a Search Agent—See PROV Guide 15 at https://prov.vic.gov.au/private-search-agents. Each set of details includes the full reference to the relevant Ward Book’s location at PROV.
The patient discharge date is given with often interesting descriptors, which, apart from 'Cured' or sadly, 'Died', may include 'Went out on a Pass and did not return' or 'Absconded' or 'Bolted'. Some returned late from a Pass but were 'Refused Admission" and left to their own devices - judged too well to get back in!
This extensive searchable database is now available, only from GSV, on a memory stick that can be ordered online on the GSV bookshop website http://www.familyhistorybookshop.org.au/ or by going to the GSV at 6/85 Queen Street, Melbourne.