Saturday at PGSA – The Liber Mortuorum

On Saturday at the Polish Genealogical Society of America Conference, Dr. Małgorzata Nowaczyk presented a seminar on the Liber Mortuorum or the Book of Deaths, a register written in Latin containing details of all deaths in a Polish parish. In addition to information on the date of death and name and age of the deceased, the Liber Mortuorum frequently includes the cause of death, and the cause of death was the subject of the bulk of Małgorzata’s talk.

All too often, the cause of death is listed simply as:

  • Senectus, marasmus senilis: old age
  • Naturalia: death of natural causes
  • Ordinaria: ordinary cause of death
  • Indetermina: cause unknown

However, if one is lucky, the disease may be described by a description of the external signs of the disease or the name of the diseased organ:

  • Dolor ventris: abdominal pain
  • Dolor pectoris: chest pain (e.g. heart attack, pleurisy)
  • Subita mortis: sudden death (e.g. heart attack, brain hemorrhage)
  • Tussis: cough (e.g. tuberculosis, pneumonia)
  • Dyspnea: difficulty breathing (e.g. cancer, tuberculosis, asthma)
  • Hydropsis: edema
  • Dolor capitis: headache (e.g. brain hemorrhage, stroke, brain cancer)
  • Delirium: delerium (e.g. fever, brain infection)
  • Paralysis: paralysis (e.g. stroke, chronic nervous system disease)
  • Apoplexis: apoplexy (e.g. stroke)
  • Convulsio: convulsions (e.g. epilepsy, stroke, tetanus)
  • Tumor, massa, tuber: cancer
  • Variola: smallpox
  • Varicella: chicken pox
  • Rubeola: measles
  • Febris: fever
  • Mors puerpera, mors ad partum: Complications due to pregnancy, labor, or delivery
  • Morte in aqua embrio: neonatal death
  • Trucidatio, homicidio: murder
  • Venetatus, venetata: poisoned
  • Casus bellicus: victim of war
  • Grassans: highway robbers
  • Submersus aquii: drowning
  • Combustion: death by fire

Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko

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