Winsome Wednesday: I have a Baby Catcher in my family, Maybe, Maybe Not

 I have a Baby Catcher in my family, maybe, maybe not

Irene and Pauline Place
Irene and Pauline Place       Flora-Tyna’s family

I recently watched the live webinar “Is there a baby catcher in your Bloodline? By Jane Neff Rollins. It was sponsored by the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree Extension.

Thank you Dear Myrtle’s Genealogy Community for posting it on you GeneaWebinar Calendar

The tag line “Is there a Baby catcher in you Bloodline?” caught my eye. I know that my maternal great-grandmother was a nurse and a midwife from oral history passed down from my mother. I have yet to make that ancestral journey on my mother’s side, so I thought I would view the webinar for information of where to begin my search. I was not disappointed. Not only did I find out where to search but also the pitfalls that might be in my way.

I learned that there were different types of Baby Catchers; Granny midwives, licensed, certified and even that doctors were midwives. I always thought doctors could deliver babies as part of there training. You learn something new everyday; today I found the mother lode of learning.

How do you begin your search? Two Key components will give you a solid ground to begin your search. I’m not saying it will be a cake walk, as you can see from my own gathered information on my great grandmother. My possible Baby Catcher.

  1. Oral history: I obtained “Tina’s” oral history from my mother before her death, Shirley B. Pease Stearns, her grand daughter.  Floratina M. Hutchins was her maiden name. I know she was married four times. She lived in at least six different locations in Maine, New Hampshire and probably Massachusetts. She went by several nicknames in her life time; Floratina, Flora-Tyna, Flora-Tina, Flora, Flora Marie, Tina, Tyna, along with her married names; Towle, Spooner, Place, and Hutchins. The name changes will be my first hurdle in finding any proof of her on paper.
  1. Location: She lived in: Cornish, Maine ~ 1893(married first husband Towle 1893 same time she started midwifery); Dexter, Maine ~ 1895(married second husband Spooner 1895); Freeport; Maine near the Casco Bay area ~ 1895 – 1899/1900 (first child was born 1898); Elliot, Maine ~ 1900 – 1923(married third husband Place early 1900’s maybe 1906/7) (ran a boarding house)(second child born 1908); York, Maine 1923(boarding house and farm burned); Sutton, New Hampshire 1923 ~ until her death in 1953(married third husband Hutchins 1923)(didn’t practice midwifery after 1927).

I have the basic info about Tyna. I have a starting date of when she began a midwife and an ending date. Yes, it is an oral history and needs to be proven before I can confirm she was a midwife. Now what do I do? Where do I go? From a genealogy point of view I have a lot of work cut out for me. Today I am going to concentrate on what source I would need to confirm her as a midwife. I found out from the webinar that Maine has Midwife logs, books and magazine to search in. New Hampshire doesn’t as far as we know at this time. Tyna dairies were lost in a fire in the 1960’s along with her other papers and photos my mother had. Other document to look for includes registers, birth certificates, and court documents.

So, until I can confirm with documents I can not conclusively say I have a Baby Catcher in my Bloodline.  My heart tells me that the oral history is a strong base to say my great grandmother was a Baby Catcher. I can state from a primary source, June Stearns Butka,  that June did in fact work in Labor and Delivery at Parkland Medical Center from 1980 to 1985 as a Maternity nurse. She also assisted in her brothers’ birth in the elevator of Concord Hospital during the 1970’s (actual date held to protect the living.) June Stearns Butka is the author of this blog can not claim to be a midwife but can claim to be a “Baby Catcher” of her brother.

Jane Neff Rollins goes on to say there are key words we need to use when doing an online search. Include the state, various forms of the word midwife, midwifery, licenses, applications, registries of midwife licenses and source document titles. She mentions the usual sources we use for our genealogy searches, several links including the state achieve and a list of books and articles about midwifery.

I post the article information below with Jane’s kind permission. Please go to her website and thank her for her generosity. Her website offers what it says a kitchen sink (a lot) of information I thank you Jane Neff Rollins for your support.



 Ballard, Martha. Diary. Text available online at:


Ulrich, Laurel Thatcher. A Midwife’s Tale: Discovering the Life of Martha Ballard,

Based on Her Diary 1785-1812. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1990


Borst, Charlotte. Catching Babies: The Professionalization of Childbirth, 1870-1920

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995.


Rooks, Judith Pence. Midwifery and Childbirth in America. Philadelphia: Temple

University Press, 1997


Robinson, Sharon A. A Historical development of Midwifery in the Black Community: 1600-1940. Journal of Nurse-Midwifery 29 (1984): 247-50.

Eakins, Pamela S., ed. The American Way of Birth. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986


State of Illinois. Annual Report of the Illinois State Board of Health, Volumes 19-20

Available online:


Newspaper Collections (microfilmed or digitized)


Library of Congress: Chronicling America Project:


Online digital newspapers:


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