Deadly Diseases

Ok, so it’s a teeny bit morbid, and definitely not the cheeriest project we’ve ever done, but we hope that our newest Google Map is going to be a useful research tool for anyone studying deaths and diseases in Leeds.

Here in the archives at Leeds we hold a series of ‘Notification of Death’ registers, 24 registers to be precise, which cover the period 1867-1941. Deposited as part of the Leeds Council Health Department collection (reference LLD8) they record anonymous data about all of the deaths in Leeds caused by disease and list the person’s address, age, occupation, gender and the date of their death.  The diseases listed include cancer, small pox, measles, and typhus but also include things such as deaths by diarrhoea, premature birth and old age to name but a few.

laryingitis deaths 1896

A sample page showing deaths by laryngitis in 1896 (reference LLD8/1/6/1/15)

We hope that the raw data from the registers can be used to plot the spread of disease throughout Leeds and allow for comparisons to be made between the 19th and the 20th century and would like to develop a tool for researchers to use online.  With the help of Jessica Docherty, a student from the University of Huddersfield, we decided to test using Google Maps to display the data from the registers and we hope to expand the map considerably over the next year. Check out the map here http://goo.gl/czHQ9Z

 

 

sample map 2

A preview of the tester map.  Each ‘pin’ represents a death in Leeds and the colours show the different diseases.  Click on each pin to display the person’s details including their address and occupation on the left hand side of the page.

Jessica’s taken a sample of a register from 1896, a year which had seen huge scientific advances, with the discovery of x-rays (at the end of 1895 by Wilhelm Roentgen) and the development of radiation by Henri Becquerel which would go on to revolutionise health care. In Leeds, since the passing of the Public Health Act twenty one years earlier which addressed housing, sewage and drainage, the understanding of and the prevention of disease had come a long way.  However, there was still a lot to do.

 

This tester map takes three ‘diseases’, measles from which 196 people died in Leeds, enteric fever which killed 76 and laryngitis which killed 19.  If you’d like to find out more about the Notification of Death registers please contact the Leeds office at leeds@wyjs.org.uk.  And, if you’d like to help us with the Google Map project we’d love to hear from you!

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