Hospital records have been kept for a long, long time in France, and they are just about the only way to learn just how a person died, for the death registration will never say so. For the genealogist, the collections of hospital archives are of use from two approaches: patient records and staff records. In some places, the hospital archives go back the the 18th century, providing a rich resource for research on an ancestor who may have been a doctor or administrator, or on those who were patients, or those born in or abandoned as babes at a hospital.
Hospital records are a bit scattered, with some being held at the originating hospital and some, being held in the Departmental Archives, in different series depending on whether they were from before or after the Revolution, and whether the hospital were public or private. Different sources give different series as well, though the page on the subject at Geneawiki seems to be the most certain at the moment. However, we recommend a bit of advance correspondence with any archives about just what they actually have from hospitals and where to find it, before you make the visit.
A current list of some twenty locations of hospital records can be found at Archives de France. Only the office for the amassed hospital records of Paris has a website, but no records are online there. We recently received a notice with the usual fanfare (wouldn't it be nice if such SPAM truly came with a tad of Handel toots?) that Geneaservice now has online some of the hospital archives of the famed Salpêtrière for the years 1848 to 1890. They include a set of cards in three groups: deaths, next of kin, and discharges. The genealogical information via these cards can be quite useful, though this is a miniscule amount of an archive compared to what actually exists around France, and compared to what the silent fanfare might lead one to believe.
Hospital archives are very much a part of the general concern among archivists in the departmental archives about the rush among the online genealogy data base companies to digitize everything. The archivists feel that perhaps not every little recorded detail should be freely available information. The battle continues.
©2010 Anne Morddel