Midwife in Belfast

Northern Ireland and Eire

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crayspond
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Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2007 6:23 am
Location: Reading UK

Midwife in Belfast

Post by crayspond » Tue Jul 02, 2019 12:19 pm

Hello,
I have discovered that my ggggrandmother was a midwife in Belfast and not just the local handywoman who helped at births. Her name was Margaret Stokes and the person who helped me find this out stated that that she was an actual official midwife overseen by the poor law board of guardians and that she crops up in an old newspaper article giving evidence to the guardians.(Ididn't see the article)
I have tried googling this but I can't find out much about it. She always seemed to be present at births in her family that I have been researching on Irish genealogy.ie. She died in Oct 1882 and is buried in the City Cemetery. Her last birth she delivered (as far as I know) was in February 1882 (a family relative).
Does anyone know anything about the midwives at the time?

Thanks for reading,

Elwyn 1
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Joined: Sun Sep 05, 2010 8:34 pm
Location: Co. Antrim, Ireland

Re: Midwife in Belfast

Post by Elwyn 1 » Tue Jul 02, 2019 3:58 pm

I had a look on a newspaper subscription site for Margaret Stokes, nurse. There was one in Surrey who was dismissed by the Board of Guardians in 1895 (West Surrey Times 23.3.1895). There was another one at Carlow hospital. So there were evidently several Margaret Stokes who were nurses in the latter part of the 1800s. I can’t identify any articles specifically relating to a Margaret in Belfast.

The Northern Whig of 12.3.1887 carried an advert for a trained nurse for Belfast Workhouse. Salary was £20 pa and included “rations and an appartment.”

Here’s a nursing history timeline that covers the 1800s:

http://memoriesofnursing.uk/articles/a- ... -in-the-uk

The Ulster Examiner & Northern Star carried a lengthy article on 5.11.1873 about nursing training and the Belfast Nurses Home. The article reported on the Belfast nurse training school which had opened 18 months previously. The article is 2 columns long and discusses the various difficulties faced. Patient numbers were far greater than the numbers of nurses available. The college wasn’t big enough and there was a call for extra resources to increase the numbers being trained. (There were under 30 in 1873, and the College said it needed space for 20 more).

Here’s an article on the history of midwifery in Ireland. I suspect that many early nurses training was of the on the job sort, rather than anything involving formal classroom training and qualifications. Florence Nightingale seems to have been the first to try and put nursing training or a more methodical footing and that didn’t happen till around 1860.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1891762/

Depending on how interested you are, you might want to contact the Ulster Medical Society. I am sure they’ll have a historian who may be able to tell you more detail.

crayspond
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Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2007 6:23 am
Location: Reading UK

Re: Midwife in Belfast

Post by crayspond » Tue Jul 02, 2019 5:12 pm

Hi Elwyn 1
The 1895 Margaret Stokes is too late to be her - I used to think her name was Stoker as the writing tailed of at the end. She was born in Perth and after her husband James McFarlane died in 1856 when they had moved to Glasgow leaving her with 5 kids, she met John Stokes who according to the census was born in Ireland. I can't find a marriage for them. They moved to Belfast after 1861.
I tend to think she was good at delivering babies and they paid her for doing it. I'm not sure if it merits contacting the Ulster medical association!
I have read the history of midwifery in Ireland - that's all I could find about it. Maybe there's a paper somewhere about the Board of Guardians and midwives.

Elwyn 1
Posts: 162
Joined: Sun Sep 05, 2010 8:34 pm
Location: Co. Antrim, Ireland

Re: Midwife in Belfast

Post by Elwyn 1 » Tue Jul 02, 2019 6:02 pm

Nearly all workhouses had an infirmary attached, so there was always a requirement for medical staff. Usually at least 1 doctor, a matron and a number of nurses. They were recruited through adverts in the local press, as you would with most staff requirements.

Currie
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Location: Australia

Re: Midwife in Belfast

Post by Currie » Fri Jul 05, 2019 10:51 am

Hello Ailsa,

This is probably the newspaper article you mentioned. Take a copy.
Poor Law Investigation in Belfast.

The Belfast News-Letter, Wednesday, October 27, 1869
Full version - https://imgur.com/a/E9rbH8t
Mrs Stoke’s evidence - https://imgur.com/a/bcxrwym

There’s a short report of a meeting of the Belfast Dispensary Committee in the Belfast News-Letter, Tuesday, December 5, 1882. They appointed a Mrs. Reid as midwife for No. 2 district in room of Mrs. Stokes, deceased.

Hope that helps,
Alan

crayspond
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Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2007 6:23 am
Location: Reading UK

Re: Midwife in Belfast

Post by crayspond » Fri Jul 05, 2019 5:24 pm

Hi Alan,
Thanks very much for finding the article for me - it helps a lot.

It must have been frowned upon to have medical students present at births but as someone commented they may have saved lives by being there.
I am very surprised that she was a midwife as early as the late 1860s.I have printed out the newspaper article and the evidence she gave.
As I said before, I lost trace of the family after the 1861 census in Scotland and it's only recently through www.irishgenealogy.ie that I've been able to piece together the McFarlane family who remained in Ireland. My line from Margaret's son James came back to Scotland around 1881 as their last child Jane was born 06/08/1882 they eventually settled in Clydebank.

She died 12/10/1882 peritonitis her occupation is Midwife and her son James was the informant. If it wasn't too much trouble could you have a look for an death notice in the newspaper? She lived at 3 Hartford St Belfast No 4.

Thanks again,
Ailsa

Currie
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Location: Australia

Re: Midwife in Belfast

Post by Currie » Sat Jul 06, 2019 9:35 am

Hello Ailsa,

No luck at all with this. I guess there wasn’t enough money around for most people to pay for such things.

All the best,
Alan

crayspond
Posts: 638
Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2007 6:23 am
Location: Reading UK

Re: Midwife in Belfast

Post by crayspond » Sat Jul 06, 2019 9:56 am

Elwyn 1 wrote:
Tue Jul 02, 2019 6:02 pm
Nearly all workhouses had an infirmary attached, so there was always a requirement for medical staff. Usually at least 1 doctor, a matron and a number of nurses. They were recruited through adverts in the local press, as you would with most staff requirements.
I've
Sent an email to the archives at the royal college of gynaecology to ask if she was registered. Seemingly they would have to travel to London to obtain a certificate to allow them to practice.
Thanks again
Ailsa

crayspond
Posts: 638
Joined: Wed Jun 13, 2007 6:23 am
Location: Reading UK

Re: Midwife in Belfast

Post by crayspond » Sat Jul 06, 2019 9:58 am

Currie wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 9:35 am
Hello Ailsa,

No luck at all with this. I guess there wasn’t enough money around for most people to pay for such things.

All the best,
Alan
Thanks for looking youve been a great help as always 🙂

starmora
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Aug 04, 2019 11:24 pm

Re: Midwife in Belfast

Post by starmora » Sun Aug 11, 2019 4:09 pm

Ailsa,
I am one of your 4th cousins! I found this site recently during a search for Dougall/Dugald McFarlane and Elisabeth Garvie.
Just quickly putting in our connection, should you wish to PM me at all. My 3xggparents were Dugald McFarlane and Margaret Christie McFarlane Stokes. My 2xggparents were Ellen (Helen/Nellie) Stewart McFarlane and Alexander Douglas(s). My ggparents were Ellen (Helen/Nellie) McFarlane Douglas(s) and William John Fleming. My grandparents were William Fleming and Mary Johnston. And my father (born at St Rollox, Glasgow - 1931, died 2017 Ottawa, Canada) was William Fleming.

I have my DNA on Ancestry/FTDna/MyHeritage/GEDmatch. My brother has his on Ancestry

Jumped in here since it is one of your threads, so hello as you are the closest relation I have found to this part of my line, online!

Best,
Arlene

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