Ancestry publishes Wellcome Library medical records

By Jon Bauckham, 6 October 2016 - 4:10pm

Historic records of doctors, dentists, midwives and medical students held by London's Wellcome Library can now be searched on Ancestry


Victorian celebrity cricketer and practising doctor WG Grace is recorded several times within the Wellcome Collection's digitised medical directories (Credit: Wellcome Collection/Getty Images)

Thousands of historic records held by the Wellcome Library have been made available to examine online for the first time.

The London-based archive has released six unique datasets via Ancestry, together comprising over 1.4 million records relating to medical students and professionals across Britain and the Commonwealth.

The largest of the datasets includes over 730,000 records gleaned from old medical directories, listing retired and practising doctors in 1845-1942.

Fully searchable, the entries can provide a doctor’s residential address, as well as details of their qualifications and employment history.

Other additions to Ancestry include registers of medical and dental students (1882-1937), dentists (1879-1942), physiotherapists (1895-1980) and midwives (1904-1959), plus the Roll of the Indian Medical Service (1615-1930), listing the names of 8,000 medical professionals who worked within the former British Raj.

This is not the first time that the Wellcome Library has released historic records online. In 2013 the institution launched a free resource named London’s Pulse, featuring reports written by Medical Officers of Health in the capital between 1848 and 1972.

The Wellcome Library has also been digitising mental health records held by partner archives across the UK. These are gradually being made available free of charge here.

“[We] first started reaching out actively to family historians in the 1990s: before this time, the family history community was largely unaware of the rich resources on offer and the Library had not had a campaign specifically of publicising them,” Dr Chris Hilton, senior archivist at the Wellcome Library, told Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine.

“It became clear when we compiled a handlist of relevant materials that the Library was a far richer source of genealogical information than anyone had given it credit for.

"So when one of our archivists had a chance meeting with the Ancestry content manager at a conference and described the materials Wellcome could offer family historians, it was a short step to start thinking about collaboration.”

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