When teaching how to successfully research the history of medicine, I often told my students that the best research projects were actually a series of small studies, each with its own complexity.  These projects could take as long a a few hours, a couple of days, or be so time consuming and frustrating that they could last weeks, months, and even years.  In one of my study topics of research for Colonial physician Dr. Cornelius Osborn, it took me more than twenty years to find the answer to a pivotal research question I had (what was “ens veneris” and did he practice, of all things, alchemy in 1750?)

A number of shorter studies were required to know Dr. Bristow as a real person, not just another person in local history who we learn little about and could barely strike up a conversation with were we to meet that person today on the street.  

The following are documents produced during the course of researching Dr. John Kennedy Bristow. 

The same information is often provided in several forms for easy review, for example, the names of Bristow’s patients are provided chronologically ans well as alphabetically, with the lists also subdivided into new lists for Illinois and Oregon.