HHH Impact Award candidates: Nadeche Diepgrond on the causes of death in Oss database

This year, HHH inaugurated the first Antonie Luyendijk-Elshout Early Career Impact Award, which rewards an excellent translation of academic research into public outreach. The HHH board awarded the prize to Antje Van Kerckhove for outstanding outreach projects stemming from her research on the use of DES, a synthetic estrogen, in Belgium. Overall, the board was very impressed with the quality of the applications it received. We thought it would be a great opportunity to share some of these projects with the HHH community. This month, Nadeche Diepgrond, PhD candidate at Radboud University, talks about the database on the causes of death in Oss she created during her fellowship at the Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum (BHIC).

Nadeche Diepgrond

Fellowship: the history of disease, health, and death in Oss (1866-1906).

As a part of the fellowship-program (BHIC) Nadeche Diepgrond studied the history of disease, health, and death in Oss (a Dutch city in the province North Brabant). The aim was to analyse and contextualize death and illness on an individual level, as well as establishing exactly who died, where, when and of whatAs a result, she developed several ‘products’ for a diverse and large audience: (1) open access database, (2) searchable persons index and (3) online articles. All results – in Dutch – can be found on an online platform

Open access database 

In the open access dataset information from the so-called death registers and civil death certificates was collected. These archival sources contain personal information (name, gender, marital status, age, occupation, and more) and the cause of death from every person that died in Oss between 1866 and 1906. As a result, data on more than 7,000 deceased persons was collected. The information from the sources was brought together in one file – the database – which is published online and open access. The publication includes a ‘manual’, which states how the database was created (source material, data collection, standardization) and how the dataset can be used. The purpose of publishing this dataset is so that others can also work with it, such as (history) students, historians, or other interested researchers.

Searchable persons index

Based on the aforementioned database, an online searchable dataset of persons has also been created. This allows anyone (via search function) to find information on their ancestors or others. The Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum (BHIC) archive had already realised some other searchable indexes (e.g. based on prison records, criminal convictions, military records) that allow one to widen their search for his/her ancestors and learn even more about their history. This index on causes-of-death, which also includes personal details, is a valuable addition for many genealogists. Moreover, there are almost no similar search engines that allow one to obtain information about the causes of death of ancestors.

Online articles 

Based on all the archival material, which was collected, Nadeche Diepgrond also did some research on various topics, such as mortality rates, infant mortality, epidemiological transition, social inequality in mortality, medical care, smallpox, and measles. The results of this research are translated into online articles (stories). These articles should also serve as examples and inspiration for what one can do with these sources and the open access database. 

About the author

Nadeche Diepgrond was born in Oss and completed both her bachelor and master’s in history at Radboud University Nijmegen. Previously, she was a student assistant and junior researcher on the Amsterdam Causes of Death project. In 2023 she studied the history of disease, health and mortality in Oss as a research fellow at the Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum (BHIC). As of April 2024, she is working as a PhD candidate at Radboud University on the Dutch history of hospitals, patients and health inequalities in the 19th century.