March 27, 2009

Using Medical Records to Find an Ancestor

Medical records are an often-overlooked genealogy resource. If you want to hunt for your ancestor in medical records you will need to investigate what records were kept for your area of interest, where they are archived and if you can access them.

Medical Records in Ontario are held in various places - some are at the Ontario Archives, others are with the original institution.

To obtain these records, you should begin with the Ontario Archives. Find out what they have, and then how to request it. For example, Queen Street Hospital in Toronto has records that go back to 1839. There are nineteenth century records for institutions in London, Hamilton, and Kingston and from Penetanguishene from 1904.

Files less than 100 years old are restricted under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.Requests for access must be submitted in writing to the
Access Unit of the Archives of Ontario.

Files created in whole or in part on or after 6 April 1954 are restricted under the Mental Health Act. Requests for access to records in Archives' custody must be submitted in writing to the Administrator of the appropriate psychiatric
hospital.

Here's a partial list of the Ontario Archives psychiatric files and holdings

My husband and I were able to obtain almost 100 pages of one of his great-aunt's medical files from the Insane Asylum in London Ontario for 1912, by applying to the Ontario Archives under the Freedom of Information Act. Some of the information in her files was blacked out by the Chief Archivist because it was not felt those notations should be read by us, but overall, the information found in the notes was amazing and very detailed.

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