by Delia

We all want to find birth records for our ancestors – nice, neat little forms that will precisely state the child’s name and birth date and place, along with the parents’ names. If we’re lucky, parents’ ages, occupations and birth places, the child’s weight and length, and the number of children the mother had already had might also be included. Alas, many states did not keep birth records until around the turn of the twentieth century, and even then, children born at home might not be registered with the county.

There are many substitutes for birth records, but one that is a contemporary source created by the person who delivered the child, is the midwife’s record. Midwives records varied by the midwife herself, and most often contained the medical or financial notes of her practice, naming the mother, the father who would be financially responsible for fees, and medical notes on the birth. Some midwives also served in the role of doctor or nurse, so other injuries, illnesses and deaths may also be noted.

Few of these records still exist, since when midwives ceased practice, their families often disposed of the records. But some did survive and may be available through various sources. The Genealogy Center has several of these records, in books and on microfilm. These are listed in the book catalog under the midwife’s name as well as the location in which she lived and practiced, or in the microtext catalog, under the location. Some records may also be found in the Periodical Source Index (PERSI), also under the midwife’s name, as well as the location, with the keyword “midwife.”

It is also possible to locate midwives’ records through WorldCat’s advanced search, with a subject of “midwives,” and another subject of the location. You may wish to limit the format to “books” and “archived material” to be sure to locate material that may only be available in one particular location.

Although searching WorldCat will aid you in locating manuscript material, you will also want to contact local and state historical societies and libraries to see if they hold any of these valuable sources.