Old Disease Names Frequently Found on Death Certificates: What Would They be Called Today? #general #names


Phil Goldfarb
 

The following came from Dick Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter today and might be useful to JewishGen Discussion Group members. As a 4th generation pharmacist and researcher for 35+ years, I did not know many of these!

Old Disease Names Frequently Found on Death Certificates: What Would They be Called Today?
  If you find a death certificate for great-great-grandma and it lists the cause of death as "Hectical Complaint," you probably will ask, "What's that?" Luckily, there is a one-page "dictionary" on USGenNet that can be a very useful tool for any genealogist who is reading old documents. It shows old medical terminology and then shows the modern-day name for each. You can find Old Disease Names Frequently found on Death Certificates at http://www.usgennet.org/usa/ar/county/greene/olddiseases1.htm


Phil Goldfarb
phil.goldfarb@...
President, JGS of Tulsa


Phil Goldfarb
 

As a follow up...someone asked me a question if there was an old name for diabetes that might be on a death certificate. The answer is that there is not an old name for diabetes. The term diabetes was probably coined by Apollonius of Memphis around 250 BCE. Diabetes is first recorded in English, in the form diabete, in a medical text written around 1425. It was in 1675 that Thomas Willis added the word “'mellitus'” to the word diabetes. A great question however!

Phil Goldfarb
phil.goldfarb@...
President, JGS of Tulsa

 


jbonline1111@...
 

Thanks so much, Phil!  I was surprised that it did not include the diagnoses on my grandfather's death certificate in 1917, "mitral regurgitation, stenosis, auricullar [sic] fibrillation," with pulmonary edema as a contributing factor.  He was between 37 and 39 years old. But it does include many old names of diseases that are helpful.
--
Barbara Sloan
Conway, SC


henry
 

Not questioning the usefulness of that list, but note that some names and spellings will vary from country to country.
Eg. edema in the UK would be spelt oedema.

Henry Best,
London, UK


rroth@...
 

"Mellitus" means sweet, to distinguish this ordinary diabetes from the less-familiar diabetes insipidus, meaning "bland", a completely different condition which still exists but is not much known to the general public. All the two have in common is frequent urination. Tasting the urine to tell them apart has gone out of fashion.

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Robert Roth MD
Kingston, NY
rroth@...


Mel Comisarow
 

"General paralysis of the insane" is (late stage) syphilis.

Mel Comisarow
Vancouver BC


EdrieAnne Broughton
 

My mother collected old books and among them was a Taber's Medical Dictionary from 1930.  It is a treasure.  Many modern terms and obsolete terms are included.  Now if I could find it easily every time I need it.  It was published early enough that antibiotics that hadn't been invented yet means that conditions that don't even exist are in there, but medicine had advanced far enough that some of the disease mechanisms are understood.  
EdrieAnne Broughton 
California


casmith24@...
 

Thanks for sharing that, Mr Goldfarb- I hadn't seen that page. I'm the daughter and granddaughter of refugees from Vienna and have been working on my family tree since I started the Austrian citizenship restoration process last year. But my day job is being a professor of medical informatics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and one of my principal research areas is medical terminology, particularly medical terminology that is used -- and not used -- by the general public. 

It is important to understand that there was no national standard for medical classification at all before the 1930s -- although large hospitals would develop their own lists of terms and train healthcare staff to use them, these varied from hospital to hospital, and on the small local level of the hometown physician outside of those large hospitals, nobody was doing any enforcing of standards at all. It was not until the rise of the computer and the associated need for real standards that anything like consistency could be found. 

So while sources like this "dictionary" can be useful when starting research, more information is needed to really draw a conclusion about the health experiences of a particular ancestor. 

There's a useful report on the history of disease classification from the CDC, available freely online here: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/misc/classification_diseases2011.pdf 

--
Catherine Arnott Smith
Stoughton, Wisconsin, USA