The hospital records are listed in the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) as Chicago, Illinois birth records, 1896-1933. The added author is Northwestern Memorial Hospital and I think the originals are most likely held by the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Archives.
These hospital books document services provided by four clinics connected to Dr. Joseph Bolivar DeLee, the physician who founded the Chicago Lying-In Dispensary at Maxwell Street and Newberry Avenue in 1895. Dr. DeLee was interested in improving birthing conditions and his clinics offered care to needy women while providing training opportunities for doctors and nurses in the emerging field of obstetrics. The primary clinic was Maxwell Station but others included Northwest Station, Stockyards Station, and the Chicago Maternity Center. The history of the Lying-In Hospital intertwines with other Chicago medical institutions and some related historical records, 1913-1943 can be found in the University of Chicago Library's Special Collections Research Center. Photos can be found here.
There are three types of clinic records available on the 14 microfilms--application books, birth books, and case books--and I will take a look at each of them in turn.
Application books are available on 11 microfilms (1315895 to 1315905) and the FHLC identifies them by volume number and year range. However, some years are covered by more than one book (because the books are from different clinics) so it would be hard to know which film(s) to view without more information. I've created a key which can be viewed as a PDF here. The application books cover the following clinics:
- Maxwell Station, Dec 1896 – Jun 1932
- Northwest Station, Sep 1903 – Nov 1907
- Stockyards Station, Aug 1923 – May 1926
- Chicago Maternity Center, Sep 1932 – Aug 1933
Birth books are available on 3 microfilms (1315995 to 1315997) and they are included on the key linked above. It's difficult to determine the exact coverage because the volumes include birth books, case books, and birth and case books and some aren't labeled with a clinic name. As a group, they appear to go from November 1898 through July 1933 with the bulk of them being from the Maxwell clinic.
The entries are chronological by birth date and span two pages. Information includes spouse with the patient's name to the right, for example, "Gold, Sam Tillie," the names of the intern and student assigned to the patient, an application number, a case or confinement number, and the diagnosis which usually reads something like "Normal L.O.A. Female 8#."
The birth and case book from February of 1900 gives detailed instructions for how to determine whether to assign a case or a confinement number. For example, full confinement cases received a confinement number, hospital cases received no number, and false alarms, abortions, midwife cases, postpartum cases, and treated pregnancy cases received a case number.
|Example: Page from a birth book showing delivery details.|
I think it's likely that the children listed in the birth books had birth certificates created and those records should be easily accessible at FamilySearch's Illinois, Cook County Birth Certificates, 1878-1922 database. Conversely, if you've found a birth certificate stamped "Chicago Lying-In Hospital," it should be easy to find the matching entries in the application and birth books.
The birth book films include four "birth and case" books and five separate case books. The case book entries cover clinic visits that didn't result in confinement. Information generally includes names, application numbers, case numbers, and a diagnosis, "False Alarm," and "Precipitate Mid wife on case," for example. These books include numerous entries for miscarriages.
So, here's what I've learned so far from and about these application, birth, and case books:
- If a family had enough resources to pay a doctor, you probably won't find a birth or clinic visit listed in these records. For example the Maxwell Station book for 1900 has a notation that says, "Not case for dispensary – can afford to pay doctor."
- Some of the poorest women in Chicago had access to innovative medical care from the late 1890s forward. Even if a child was born at home, the birth might have been assisted by a skilled physician.
- Many of the entries in the early Maxwell Street books are for Jewish women from Russia but other neighborhood women used the clinic, too.
- The Stockyards Station books list religion. Notations include things like "Amer Cath," "Amer Prot Col," and Amer Prot" and this information might prove useful in looking for baptismal records.
- Comparing hospital record information with birth certificate information I notice that there are sometimes minor variations. Name might be spelled differently, for example.
- Sometimes the doctors recorded remarks about the health of an infant. For example, I saw notations such as "Upper lip shows imperfect union" and "Birthmark."
- Sometimes the doctors were called to the home only to find they weren't needed. One note said "Met husband who said he had an other doctor & did not need us.”
- In the 1920s, the Stockyards book begins to mention payments. Notations include things like "Will try to give $5" and "$16.50" (I saw amounts ranging from $5 to $20) but some patients are listed as "Free Care."It's possible that these payments or donations were used to fund the construction of the new hospital.
If you've read to this point and find yourself thinking, "I wonder if my ancestor appears in the records?" post a comment. I'll gladly take a look at the records, time permitting, for the first person to ask.
Related Links Collected while Researching this Post
Caroline Benoist Collection at University of Virginia School of Nursing
Caroline studied in-home delivery at the Chicago Lying-in Hospital and her papers include some publications from the same.
Syphilis in Pregnancy and Labor
Report of a study done at the Stockyards Station published in American Journal of Syphilis; follow the link and search the book for "chicago lying-in."
American Child Hygiene Association Annual Meeting Report
Search for "chicago lying-in"
Directory of History of Medicine Collections
A tool for finding the locations of archived hospital records.
Numerous additional references can be found by searching for "chicago lying-in hospital" at Google Books.