[APG Public List] Nursing homes

Ray Beere Johnson II raybeere at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 28 11:26:30 MDT 2010

     Thanks for raising a very interesting point. Even terms we may think are familiar may have meanings we don't expect - as you've shown with "nursing home" - and any inferences we may draw from such a linguistic misunderstanding would be misleading.
     I wonder if there are other terms we think we understand but which may have other possible meanings, and how many such terms there may be?
     This really demonstrates how inadequate "dictionaries" of archaic terms usually are. Different times, countries, even regions may have had their own special usages. (Although I doubt these terms would ever be of genealogical significance, to illustrate how regional terms can be, what most of the US calls a "milkshake" is a "frappe" in New England - but, in Rhode Island, a "frappe" is a "cabinet"...) That example will probably never matter to anyone, but what other odd usages might affect our research?
                      Ray Beere Johnson II

--- On Tue, 9/28/10, LBoswell <laboswell at rogers.com> wrote:

> 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:
> <http://newspapers.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/8223762>
> 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.


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