[APG Public List] Nursing homes

LBoswell laboswell at rogers.com
Tue Sep 28 07:57:59 MDT 2010

The OED is missing the mark here definitely.  It seems to have been used as 
a general term for a maternity hospital in UK and Ire. and later also 
applied to both convalescent homes or "old age" homes and maternity 
homes/hospitals.  But the term wasn't just a slang label for a maternity 
hospital because it was often included in the name of the institution, 
Rockcroft Nursing Home (actually a maternity home).  And in my adoption 
related searches although I see references to "born in a nursing home" 
applied to what we would call homes for unwed mothers (there still are such 
places!), it 'nursing home' wasn't primarily intended for unmarried mothers 
as the following link shows:


Most of the examples I have don't involve unwed mothers.

The latter type of nursing home (maternity specific) existed at least into 
the 1990s, called specifically such and such Nursing Home.  Maybe the term 
maternity hospital has taken over, because it seems that nowadays 'nursing 
home' is applied today in Britain/Ireland to geriatric care in the same way 
it is here.

What seems to be coming out of my research into this is that 'nursing homes' 
(maternity) in Britain and Ireland were introduced to try to lower the high 
mortality rate for infants and mothers within the existing 
workhouse/hospital/midwife framework.  They may have been set up originally 
to specifically address that problem of high mortality rates.  I'd suggest 
that modern maternity hospitals  and maternity wards in hospitals grew 
alongside this British/Irish maternity "Nursing Home" system.

I can't date it to its beginnings, but nursing starts to become more 
formalized, supplanting mid-wives about 1880s,  and into the 1890s when 
hospitals begin to train nurses.  My gt.grandmother was trained in the 1890s 
as a maternity nurse in Guy's Hospital, London.   This discussion has opened 
some leads in the area where she practiced later (St. Albans, Herts).  She 
eventually answered an ad calling for trained maternity nurses to come to 
Canada ( in a Manchester newspaper around 1905), and her passage to Montreal 
was paid by the hospital she worked at here.

I think by the time a similar need is addressed in Canada and the US (high 
mortality rates) it happens after the British introduction of maternity 
nursing homes, and when it occurs here it is connected right away to the 
hospital system (either in the form of a maternity ward or one of the 
"Grace" maternity hospitals run by the Salvation Army).  Maybe some future 
genealogist will see the phrase "born in a Salvation Army hospital" and make 
a socio-economic judgement based on that (though the chain of Salvation Army 
maternity hospitals often were the only dedicated maternity hospitals in an 
urban area, and catered to all, not to just the poor).  I was born in the 
Sally Ann  'Grace Hospital'  in Montreal.  Will someone see that as implying 
something negative in the future?

But how we 'know' a term or a phrase definitely colours the implications we 
draw from it.  "Born in a nursing home" to a US researcher who didn't 
understand the prior British/Irish application of the term would imply an 
unmarried mother, or similar.  Possibly even something akin to how "born in 
a workhouse" would be interpreted.  Yet as the royal birth in a nursing home 
(link above) shows, that was not the case.

And just to point out that 'nursing homes' for the elderly up in Ontario now 
have a majority of clients in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and so on, usually in a 
long-term care situation.  The elderly are slowly becoming less of a focus, 
and now consist mainly of those who are too poor to go elsewhere. 
"Retirement homes" with their high profits and fees have become the place of 
choice for the majority of the elderly.  With a range of quality and 
services that can appeal to a wider range of economic backgrounds.  I just 
saw an old motel transformed into a "retirement home".   All they seemed to 
have done is upped the old motel rates dramatically and added someonone in a 
health care type uniform in what used to be the motel office!  Seems these 
retirement homes are springing up all over, while the nursing home system 
switches to new clients.

Interesting replies to this, though I don't seem to be getting all of the 
replies that were posted.

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