Today I thought I would share a unique resource we have here at HSMC. If you have been following our blog and social media posts for a while, you likely have seen several references to the Montgomery County Almshouse. Click here to see a past blog post about the history of that site.
In our library, we have a binder titled "Montgomery County Alms House Journal Excerpts 1884-1907". For those of you looking to research the Almshouse or are doing genealogy research, this binder has a wealth of information. It includes births, names of children, deaths, and people with mental health conditions.
One part of the binder in particular caught my eye. Next to the names of the people who died at the Almshouse is a note of where they were buried. Some lines say they were buried at A.H., which I believe was short for "Alms House". Other lines say "taken away for burial". However, there are some lines that say something like "sent to Phila".
We know it was not an uncommon practice to send bodies to medical schools around this time. When the Pennsylvania Anatomy Act was passed in 1883 it allowed teachers and students to study bodies without buying them. The goal of this act was to prevent grave robbing. So when we see phrases like "sent to Phila", it is possible this means these people either did not have a next of kin or were too poor to afford burial and thus may have been sent to a medical school in Philadelphia.
We have seen other instances where such practices took place. For example, while hunting for a different Ann Moore, we uncovered this person who died at the State Hospital in Norristown in 1901.
When you see "Anatomical" in the Cemetery line on Ancestry.com, it is likely in reference to a person's body being sent to a medical school for study. Today, there are more rules involving consent for donating bodies to medical schools.