York Factory Medical Journals – 1846-1849 at the Hudson Bay Archives – by Elizabeth Briggs & Colin Briggs – 2000
Colin & Elizabeth Briggs have researched historical and archival documents from York Factory, the major northern trading post of the Hudson’s Bay Company. The medical records of Dr. William Smellie, the surgeon at the post, have been transcribed, including diagnoses and prescriptions. Patients originated from the Orkney Islands, Shetland, Scotland, England, Ontario, Quebec and the Red River Settlement. Included in the text is the treatment of First Nation People associated with the HBC. Individuals connected with the Fur Trade and those interested in the harsh conditions experienced by the residents, traders, trappers and associated personnel connected with the Company will find this book of particular interest. Pharmacists, nurses and physicians with an interest in historical treatments recorded in medical journals will find that the documents provide detailed information of diagnostics and therapeutics of the era. The book has a comprehensive glossary and a detailed index. Topics covered include:
- Biographical information on William Smellie, Scottish physician and surgeon, his life and family;
- British educational requirements for a physician & surgeon in the 1840’s;
- Medical records of more than two hundred named individuals treated at York Factory, 1846-1849;
- Excerpts from William Smellie’s poems including a description of York Factory;
- Prescription used to treat illness in the mid-nineteenth century;
- Clinical skills e.g. use of the stethoscope, recording pulse, condition of tongue….;
- Clinical tests used in the nineteenth century, e.g. biochemical tests on urine;
- Treatment of diseases, e.g. influenza, dysentery, heart conditions, rheumatism, scurvy, accidents…;
- Dental treatment;
- Treatment of eye problems;
- Children’s ailments and therapy;
- Accidents and surgery;
- Medications, generally herbal preparations, some use of metallic compounds;
- Medical treatment of HBC employees and their families;
- Medical histories, some patients with over 75 visits to the physician;
- Medical attention given to names First Nation People at York Factory
- Commentary on health at York Factory;
- Glossary of terms, Index & Bibliography;
- Citation or archival resources.
About the Author(s)
Colin & Elizabeth Briggs
Colin Briggs was born and educated in England. He obtained a pharmacy degree from London University, and worked as a community pharmacist in Cornwall and Essex. Subsequently he held a research position at Portsmouth College of Technology and completed a PhD from the University of London. Colin emigrated to Canada and joined the teaching staff of the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Manitoba in 1967. He specialized in herbal products, complementary medicine and sterile products.
Colin has been an active member of the Pharmacy profession. He served as a board member of the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association for six years, and is a past president of the Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada. He was on the Board of the Canadian Foundation for Pharmacy and was elected president in 1999. His research involves formulation studies and analytical biochemistry of food and therapeutic products. In conjunction with Dr. Jennifer Walker Shay he completed an educational project on First Nation medicines used by the Island Lake community in Manitoba. Colin has collaborated extensively with research workers in Europe, the United States and developing countries. He was designated a Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain for “his contribution to the Profession and Science of Pharmacy”. Colin Briggs was seconded to Health Canada from 1997 to 2000 as Senior Science Advisor on Complementary Medicines, where he was involved with scientific aspects of natural products and alternative medicines. In 2008 Colin was appointed Professor Emeritus of the University of Manitoba.
Colin has been active in Family History research. He has extensive experience searching resources in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States. He is particularly interested in the quality of life experienced by earlier generations. With his wife Elizabeth Briggs he transcribed and published the York Factory Medical Journals, 1846-1849, written by William Smellie. Also they wrote Before Modern Medicine: Diseases & Yesterday’s Remedies.
Dr Briggs has been a member of the Anglican Synod of Rupert’s Land, Rector’s Warden of St Luke’s Anglican Church, and a board member of the Canadian Mental Health Association. He is a founder member of the Intrepid Society and is a member of the board the Commonwealth Association in Manitoba. In addition, he is actively involved in fund raising to support education of orphans in Haiti.
Elizabeth Briggs was born and educated in Glamorgan, South Wales. She was granted a scholarship at the age of eleven and attended Bridgend Girls’ Grammar School. She continued her post secondary education in Canada. She holds a B.Sc., B.Ed., and M.Ed. degrees. She has taught Biology, Chemistry and Leadership for many years at the high school level. She was responsible for the Gifted Program and served as Department Head of Science. Elizabeth is retired and spends a time on family research, teaching genealogy and genealogical research for the government. She has just written the Gloucestershire Ancestry and the Warwickshire Ancestry of her maternal grandmother. She is working on the Yorkshire ancestry of her paternal grandmother.
Elizabeth has volunteered at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives where she developed a database for almost ten thousand Servants’ Contracts from 1776-1926. She undertakes research and teaches genealogy courses in Winnipeg. Elizabeth has taken courses on Palaeography at Brigham Young University and Welsh Genealogy in Aberystwyth University, Wales. She has researched family history in provincial archives in Canada, the National Archives, Canada and Washington D.C. She has continued her research in the National Archives at Kew (London), Dublin, Edinburgh, Yorkshire and Aberwystwyth, Wales as well as many County Record Offices (Archives) in England and Wales. Last May she was able to push her Nottinghamshire line into the 1400s.
Prior to Covid both Colin and Elizabeth traveled to Britain each year to work in various archives and they traveled to Salt Lake City to use the resource centre.
Elizabeth has written or co-authored a number of books to help people research their family history. Some of these include:
• Biographical Resources at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Volume One,
• Biographical Resources at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Volume Two,
• Before Modern Medicine: Diseases and Yesterday’s Remedies, and
• York Factory Medical Journals, 1846-1849.
She wrote an eight week on-line course for the National Institute of Genealogy in Toronto on Reading and Interpreting Old Handwriting.
Elizabeth has been an invited speaker to Smithers, B.C., the Ontario Genealogical Society Seminar, Orkney Family History Society, Scotland and Manitoba Genealogical Society. She has been Genealogist in Residence at the Millennium Library. Elizabeth has been a regular presenter at Winnipeg Libraries, Creative Retirement and the Brandon Genealogical Seminars.
Elizabeth is a past president of the Manitoba Genealogical Society and she has co-chaired two seminars. Elizabeth, Bill Burland and Kathy Stokes co-chaired a project to index the 1891 census for Manitoba. She has served as Peoples’ Warden at St. Luke’s Anglican Church and has participated or chaired a number of church committees. She was secretary/treasurer for the committee which raised funds to build an elevator at St. Luke’s Church. Elizabeth & her husband Colin raised over a quarter of a million dollars in four years for an elevator to meet the needs of mobility challenged people. Elizabeth and Colin continue to raise funds to educate students in Haiti who do not have the opportunity to attend school unless payment is made.
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