PARISH REGISTERS FROM TRANSYLVANIA – SOURCES FOR THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE (LATE 18TH – EARLY 20TH CENTURIES)
This paper aims to analyse the typology of medical-historical information provided by parish registers from Transylvania – a category of primary sources used mainly by historical demographers. The approach is descriptive and prospective in character: it creates a typology of the medical information to be found in the sources, while highlighting possible research directions and approaching a series of methodological and interpretation issues. The parish registers contain references to medical actors (the midwife, the physician, the death inspector), to medical activities (vaccination), and to events regarding the history of medicine (multiple births, infant mortality, death-causing diseases and accidents, epidemics, etc.). Despite the fact that they provide mainly demographic data, some epidemiological and medicine-related information can prove interesting for researchers in the field of the historyof medicine. Such information is suitable for serial analyses and in some cases even for collective biography studies of the medical staff (e.g., the birth assistants and midwives), thus cross-referencing in many respects with cultural and social history. However, probably for reasons related to the sources’ accessibility, medical historians have not seemed very interested in these data, a situation which will hopefully change in the near future due to the newly compiled historical population databases. The conclusions reached in this paper point towards the variety of medical-historical information contained in parish registers, highlighting the need for reconsidering them as sources not only for historical demography, but also for medical history.
Key words: Transylvania; parish registers; vital registration; history of medicine; historical population database