Page images

V. Showing the CONDITION (whether Widowed or Single) and

PLACES of RESIDENCE of the parties Married.


The first marriages of males, it will be seen, amount to 2,149, or nearly 84.74 per cent. of all the marriages; 346 were second marriages, 32 were third, while only a single fourth marriage took place, which was of a gentleman of the ripe age of 71 with a maiden of 31.

The first marriages of females number 2,230, or 87.93 per cent of all the marriages. Of these, 1984 were united to males who had never been married ; 227 married widowers; 18 married men who had been widowed twice, while one ventured to take a gentleman whose essays in the matrimonial line had been made three times before.

The condition of eight non-resident couples is unknown. The residence of 1,923 males at the time of marriage was in Boston ; 481 resided in other towns in the State, and 132 belonged out of the State.

Of the females, 2,103 resided in Boston ; 363 in other parts of the State ; and 70 came from other States.

Of the whole number of marriages, 24 were of cou

ples, one or both of whom resided here, but who were married in other States. The law requires such parties to register their marriages on their return to the city.

There were 397 instances in which the brides were older than the grooms.

There were 46 colored couples married ; and 12 colored males married white women, There was one instance where the groom was white and the bride colored.


The annexed tables, illustrative of the mortality of the year 1856, show that there were 4,253 deaths in the city of Boston during that period, an increase of 173 over the number recorded in 1855. Even this

. augmentation leaves the general result 188 below the record of 1854. With the exception of Scarlatina, which has proved exceedingly virulent during the latter part of the year, the city has suffered from no epidemic; while some other diseases, which have usually prevailed to a greater or less extent, have been less fatal than they were in previous years. Among these the most marked is Small Pox, from which not a death has been reported since August.

In the City Registrar's last Report, the regret was expressed that the present method of reporting deaths was so defective. The experience of the past year has deepened the conviction received during the previous one, that, not only was the value of the registration system impaired by the imperfect manner in which it was carried out, but even crimes were perpetrated and

effectually concealed through these very defects. So long as licenses for interments are issued on the returns now required by law, without the attestation of competent authority as to their correctness, flagrant crimes may be committed with little hazard of exposure. As proof of this observation, attention is called to the following incident.

An undertaker was employed a few months since to superintend the funeral of a female, who was said to have died of typhoid fever. On applying for the requisite license to inter the body, the undertaker expressed his doubt, from the character of the house where the death occurred, concerning the cause of death. As the return was properly made, and nothing beyond a mere surmise was thrown out, the usual license was given, and the body interred accordingly. Two or three days subsequently, two ladies called at this office to inquire concerning the female in question. They stated that the deceased had, a short time previously, resided in their family, but had afterwards left it without informing them of her new abode. They stated that soon after her departure, a young man, who was understood to have been paying his addresses to her, called at their residence and informed them that she had died out of the city, but was brought back and buried at East Boston. This misrepresentation, in connection with the character of the house where the death took place, created a suspicion that something was wrong. The body, accordingly, was disinterred, and an examination made, when it was fully proved that abortion had been practised, which, in all probability, had caused death. Arrests were made; among the number the “Doctor," who was alleged to have produced the abortion, and held to bail for trial. Although little doubt existed that the death in question resulted from the assigned cause, it was found impossible to fasten the guilt upon the suspected parties, and they altogether escaped. Two other cases of a similar character occurred previously, one of which was properly investigated, but nothing definite was brought home to the suspected


These are but three instances; but there might not have been more obstacles to the occurrence of a dozen, nor could the present mode of reporting deaths furnish means to detect them. A murder may be committed : a report of the death is made, ascribed to any disease that the person reporting the case may choose, together with a few simple items of information, and permission asked to remove the body from the city for interment. No suspicion being entertained, the required permission is given. On arriving at the place of burial, the same particulars are furnished there that were given in the first instance, and the body is interred. Unless suspicion is excited by other circumstances, no detection will probably result. Who can say that such instances do not actually occur every year ?

The Registration Act of Rhode Island, enacted in 1855, makes it the duty of physicians to report deaths and where death occurs without the attendance of a physician, that duty is imposed on coroners. The last report of the City Registrar of Providence, shows that this feature in the Registration system of Rhode Island renders that an improvement upon our own. Although entire accuracy is not to be expected, some approxima


tion to that result, however, may be reasonably looked for. In most cases of death where physicians were in attendance, the cause of death could be definitely stated; the remainder could be so described as to prove of almost equal practical benefit. In regard to the large number who die without being visited by a physician, it might be made the duty of the City Physician to see such after death, and report the result of his examination. Whatever uncertainty there might be in this course, it would not be a tithe of that which exists under the present system.

Another advantage of a public character would result under the change above indicated. The City Physician would become daily cognizant of the exact sanitary condition of all parts of the city, and of the habits and mode of living of those among whom the deaths indicated occurred. This personal inspection would enable him to make such suggestions to the Board of Health as would prove conducive to the public health, as well as serve to prevent or expose misdeeds such as have been alluded to. With these suggestions, the subject is respectfully urged upon the attention of the City Council.

The following table, showing the number of deaths on each day of the year, will be interesting as one of reference. The correspondence between the number of deaths in each of the first six and of the ninth months of the past year, with the number that died in the same months in 1855, is singular, there being only a difference of 35 deaths for the whole period. It will also be observed, that the mortality in August last did not so greatly preponderate over some of the other months, as

« PreviousContinue »