Family History

Looking to find out more about a medical ancestor? The College Library and Archive has a wide variety of resources for tracing physicians and surgeons from Glasgow and the West of Scotland and beyond. For dentists please see the Dental History page.

The most commonly used sources are:

  • The Medical Register - published annually from 1859, after the Medical Act of 1858 made registration with the Medical Council compulsory for practitioners in the UK. The College Library holds copies from 1859-2000.
  • The Medical Directory - available in the College library from 1853. Entries are fuller than the Medical Register, and may include details of the practitioner's publications and career.
  • Trade Directories - The College Library has a run of Post Office Directories of Glasgow from 1848/1849 (one for 1834/1835) to 1923/1924 and reprints of Tait's Directory 1783/1784.

These sources can be used to track a person's career and likely time of death (when their entry no longer appears). Obituary notices can then be sought in the Glasgow Medical Journal (from 1828), the Edinburgh Medical Journal (from 1805), the Lancet (from 1823) and the British Medical Journal (from 1853). All these volumes are available in the College Library.

We may hold more information about your ancestor if they were a Fellow or Member of the College

  • Fellows and Members - A list of members 1599-1850 is given in Alexander Duncan's Memorials of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, James Maclehose and Sons, 1896. Fellows of the Faculty were created in 1850, replacing the title of "member". Registers and printed lists of Fellows can be found in the College Archive.
  • Licentiates - The grade of "licentiate" was created in 1785 to allow the admission of country practitioners. Details of licentiates can be found in the Register of Single Licentiates, 1815-1959 in the College Archive.
  • The Double and Triple Qualifications - In the latter part of the 19th century the Scottish medical colleges began offering joint medical and surgical qualifications. From 1859 a double qualification in Medicine and Surgery was offered by the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. In 1884 a triple qualification was introduced by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Note that the name of the College has changed over the years. The medical corporation founded by Maister Peter Lowe in 1599 was known by the end of the 17th century as the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. In 1909 the prefix "Royal" was added. There was a further change in 1962 to the current name of Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Graduates of Glasgow University are listed in A Roll of the Graduates of the University of Glasgow, 1727-1897 compiled by W. Innes Addison, Glasgow, 1898. This is available to view in the College Library Reading Room. If your ancestor is a graduate of Glasgow University then Glasgow University Archives may be able to provide further information.


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