How to look for records of... Doctors and nurses

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

The National Archives is not the best place to find information about the careers and service of individual doctors or nurses. However, this guide will help you find the doctors’ and nurses’ records that we do hold and some of the most significant collections held in other archives. Most of the records we hold in this subject area relate to the administration and policy of health services.

The National Archives does not hold hospital patients’ records – for these you may need to go to the hospitals themselves. More information can be found in our guide to NHS patient records.

What do I need to know before I start?

There was no central register of civilian nurses before 1921. The register was initially divided into the general part, reserved for female nurses, with supplementary parts for fever nurses, male nurses, mental health nurses and sick children’s nurses. The books were updated to include new information such as change of name by marriage or removal from the register for non-payment of the retaining fee (until the fee was abolished by the Nurses Act 1949) or following disciplinary procedure. Before 1919, when the General Nursing Council was established, records of nurses were kept by individual nurse training schools, most of which were attached to major hospitals, where the records can often still be found. Many surviving records from hospitals are in local archives.

Health authorities are required to keep confidential records for the shortest practical time, though some hospitals may have older records. Administrative records of hospitals are normally closed for 30 years and patients’ records for 100 years.

The Medical Directory lists names and addresses of doctors from 1845. From 1859 all doctors had to be registered, with details published in the annual Medical Register.

What records can I see online?

None of the records of doctors or nurses held at The National Archives are available online. The original copies of the following online records are all held elsewhere.

Medical registers 1859-1959

Search UK Medical Registers on (£) for lists of doctors with their residence, qualification and date of registration. Registers were published annually but have only been digitised at 4 year intervals.

The National Archives library holds paper directories for the following years: 1915-1921, 1924, 1927, 1930, 1933, 1936, 1939, 1942, 1944, 1950, 1953-1973

Medical directories 1845-1942

Search Medical directories on (£) for lists of practising and retired doctors in Britain and British colonies. It was not compulsory for a doctor to be listed. The original directories are held at the Wellcome Library.

The National Archives library holds paper registers for the following years: 1895, 1898, 1902, 1913-1918, 1923, 1942, 1949 , 1953-1969, 1971-1974, 1978, 1979, 1983, 1986, 1987, 2005, 2009

Medical and dental student registers 1882-1937

Search for UK Medical and dental student registers compiled by the General Medical Council on (£) for records of all students of medicine and dentistry studying in the UK between 1882 and 1937. The original registers are held at the Wellcome Library.

Nursing registers 1898-1968

Search the nursing registers held at the Royal College of Nursing on (£). Before the General Nursing Council was established in 1919 the registers were kept independently by individual hospitals and this collection brings many of those registers together, along with the central registers which were subsequently compiled.

Queen’s Nursing Institute Roll of Nurses 1891-1931

Search the Roll of Nurses from the Queen’s Nursing Institute on (£) for basic career and biographical details of nurses enrolled at this community nursing charity.

Midwives Roll 1904-1959

Search the Midwives Roll on (£) for the date of enrolment, qualifications and address of midwives practicing between 1904 to 1959. The original rolls are held at the Wellcome Library.

What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

To access these records you will either need to visit us or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£). Alternatively, you can pay for research.

Records of the General Nursing Council for England and Wales c.1860-1984

For rolls and registers of nurses maintained by the General Nursing Council consult:

  • The Register of Nurses 1921-1973 in DT 10 (arranged by registration number and year). These records include registration number, name, permanent address, date and place of registration, and qualifications. Use the printed nominal indexes (arranged alphabetically by year) in DT 10/1-56 to locate records in DT 10 (1921-1973). Although the Register in DT 10 was opened in 1921 it includes details of nurses who had qualified previous to this.
  • The Roll of Nurses 1944-1973 in DT 11. Applications for admission to the Register of Nurses was only applicable for qualified nurses who had completed a three-year training course. There was a large group of second grade or assistant nurses with two years training who were therefore ineligible for registration. The Nurses Act of 1943 recognised the assistant nurse and the General Nursing Council regulated the formation, maintenance and publication of the roll. Use the printed nominal indexes in DT 11/1-9 to locate records in DT 11 (1944-1973). Note: In 1961 the name of the nurses was changed from assistant nurse to State Enrolled Nurse.
  • The computerised register and roll 1973-1983 in DT 12, containing the names of those nurses still on the register and roll in 1983, from the opening of the register on 30 September 1921 to the dissolution of the GNC at close of business on 30 June 1983. The series is arranged by part of Register or Roll. The names are arranged alphabetically by surname and initials. The records in DT 12/24-26 are not on a readable format.

Records of midwives 1872-1877, 1904-1983

Browse the midwives rolls by year in DV 7 in our catalogue (arranged alphabetically by year). This was compiled annually by the secretary of the Central Midwives Board in accordance with the provisions of the Midwives Act 1902. The series also contains a Register of Skilled Midwives at the Obstetrical Society of London April 1872 to July 1877 in DV 7/1.

Records of medical staff in Poor Law Unions and workhouses 1833-1921

Browse the registers of paid staff in MH 9 (1837-1921) in our catalogue for records of medical officers, nurses, matrons, and assistant day nurses working for the Poor Law Unions and in the workhouses. Registers can include names, dates of appointment, salaries, and reason and year of leaving the appointment. Speculatively search the correspondence and papers in MH 12 (1833-1909) in our catalogue (arranged by Poor Law Union).

Probate records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1660-c1720

Search the records in PROB 4 by key-word and/or name for probate inventories of apothecaries, doctors and surgeons.

Records of Royal Navy nurses, medical officers and surgeons

Explore the research guide Royal Navy nurses and medical officers for advice on where to look. Search the records by name in ADM 101 for journals and diaries compiled by Royal Navy surgeons and assistant surgeons who served on HM ships, hospitals, naval brigades, shore parties and on emigrant and convict ships in the period 1793-1880. More about cataloguing the Royal Navy Medical Officers’ journals can be found here.

Records of Army and Royal Air Force nurses, Military Nursing

Explore the research guides on British Army nurses, Military Nursing, and Royal Air Force Nurses for advice on where to look.

Records of medical personnel in the Polish Resettlement Corps 1940-1949

Search WO 315/14 and WO 315/15 for War Office records on Medical officers, pharmacists, dentists, and field ambulance officers who served in Polish Land Forces and Polish Resettlement Corps 1940-1949. The records are written in Polish.

What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

Wellcome Library

Visit the Wellcome Library to view records of the Queen’s Nursing Institute (1887-1997), including lists of names submitted for appointment as Queen’s Nurses (1891-1969) and badge registers (1907-1945).

London Metropolitan Archives

Contact London Metropolitan Archives for records of London training schools for nurses, including Guy’s Hospital and the Nightingale Training School.

Lambeth Palace Library

Browse the name index to medical licences issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1535 to 1775 and held by Lambeth Palace Library.

The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries

Visit the website of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for advice on their historical records, including Apprenticeship bindings, membership records, candidates’ entry books, and the lists of Licentiates and pharmacy technicians.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists

Visit the website of the Royal College of Psychiatrists for advice on their historical records of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association (1891-1951), who trained and registered Mental Nurses and Attendants.

King’s College London Archive

Explore the King’s College London archive catalogue to find records of the Royal British Nurse’s Association (RBNA).

Independent medical colleges and societies may hold member lists and obituaries.

What other resources will help me find information?


Search archived data from the Hospital Records Database to find information on the location of hospital records, including those about staff and patients, in the UK.

Consult the family history page on Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Services for advice on finding records of nurses. Notably they hold text-searchable digitised copies of the British Journal of Nursing from 1888 to 1956 (originally the Nursing Record).

Visit the website of the Royal British Nurses Association for general information on the history of nursing.

Explore the Queen’s Nursing Institute’s District Nursing 150 website for historical accounts of district nursing and nurses.

Search Munk’s Roll on the Royal College of Physicians website for obituaries of Fellows of the Royal College of Physicians dating back to the founding of the college.

Search the Historic Hospital Admission Records Project database for records of admissions to four major children’s hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, between 1852 and 1921.


Susan Bourne and Andrew H. Chicken, Records of the Medical Professions: A Practical Guide for the Family Historian (1994).

Michelle Higgs, Tracing Your Medical Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians (Pen & Sword Books: 2011).

John H. Raach, A Directory of English country physicians, 1603-1643 (Dawsons of Pall Mall: 1962).  This is based on ecclesiastical records, which can be found in local record offices and the Guildhall Library.

P.J. Wallis and R.J. Wallis, Eighteenth Century Medics (1985). This index lists approximately 35,000 practitioners gathered from sources like university alumni lists and book subscription lists.