Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Finding Old Time Medical Records Can Be A Challenge

Don't you hate it when you discover wrong info on the internet and have no way to correct it?!  I'm sure the information was accurate once but it isn't any longer.  Now that Ancestry.com owns rootsweb they permit "view only" so no updates can be made.  It's nice that the old posts are still viewable but it wastes a lot of time if you follow the directions that are wrong.

In August I tried to obtain records from a state hospital in Florida.  I found the following links:
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~chattahoochee/
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~chattahoochee/index12.html

Following directions from those sites, I wrote a letter in late August to the Health Information Manager as I figured the name given on the above link probably wasn't accurate any longer.  I included a copy of my driver's license, the client's driver's license, and birth and death records to prove lineage to the individual I was trying to obtain information about.

On September 3rd I was contacted by an individual who said she was a volunteer and that she had the file on her desk but couldn't send the contents until I submitted the following notarized statement from the client:

"I am the oldest living relative and heir-at-law and am giving permission to send the copy of my Great Grandmother, (insert the individual's name here as I don't have permission to use it in this blog), to: (My Name, My Address)"

Note:  If you are requesting the information for your own use you can omit the giving permission portion.  Client had to attest that I had permission to receive the records which is why the statement had to be included.

We were supposed to fax the notarized statement to a number given to me but the fax didn't work so I called the number I had been contacted from but that number wasn't working either so I mailed the notarized statement with a note explaining why I was unable to fax it.

I made a follow up call the following week to verify that the notarized copy was received because we have terrible mail service here.  The phone number was working and the same volunteer told me it had been received and was pending approval by the Health Information Manager.  This was new!  Last time we spoke she never told me it had to be approved; I was led to believe that the file was found and as soon as the notarized permission was received it would be copied and sent.

A month passed and nothing was received so I called again.  This time the phone was the fax and the fax was the phone!  I spoke with the same volunteer who now said, "As an employee, this is my side job so I can only look for files when I'm caught up with my other duties."  I didn't want to question her as to when she was hired as she had presented herself as a volunteer in our two previous phone calls, plus she had told me she had the file on her desk.  She could give me no time frame as to when I might receive the information.

Another month passed so I wrote a letter asking if additional information was needed and this time, the fax worked (Yay!)  I got a phone call back a few days later from the volunteer/employee saying how weird it was that the file had just been approved to send to me.  She said she would mail it the following day.

On November 25 I received the "file."   Actually, it was a letter from the Health Information Manager apologizing for the delay in responding and mentioning that most of the records had been destroyed (how convenient) and that all they had was attached.  It was a copy of an admission card and a ledger page on the day the patient arrived.  The letter directed me to check the Florida State Archives as some records had been transferred there but there was no telling if this patient's file was one of those records saved.

I contacted the state archivist by phone.  What a delightful person! She told me that most records had been destroyed and that older records were "samplings" only.  She said researching is "hit or miss" but she would see what she could find.  Luckily for us, she was able to find, scan and email 10 pages of the initial admission document within an hour. (Cost is .25 per page).  

A diligent genealogist uses reasonably exhaustive searches so I would recommend pursuing the path that I followed but be aware that it was MONTHS before I received the scant information.  I think one of the genealogy standards ought to address patience!  What I received was extremely valuable, though, and actually changed the direction of the research plan.

Due to the holiday, I'm again blogging early.  Hope to resume my regular Sunday and Thursday blogs next week.  Wishing a Happy New Year to you and your family!



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