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Family History

Researching your family history at the RCS

Genealogists are able to make an appointment to visit the College library and make use of the sources available.

When planning to visit the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England for genealogical research please consider the following:

  • We are unlikely to hold much information unless the ancestor was a Fellow of the College (FRCS).
  • If your ancestor was solely a member (MRCS), it's unlikely that we will hold any detailed information. See clarification of the difference between 'MRCS' and 'FRCS' in a historical context.
  • Our records go back to 1800 (apart from the examination books, which merely state the date of passing and town of residence, back to 1745).
  • The earliest Medical Directory is 1845.
  • The Society of Apothecaries also used to licence surgeons to practise as apothecaries
  • Our membership records generally do not contain details of births, marriages and deaths.

Enquiry service

Please note: the charge for family history research stands at £25 per name searched.

Please return your completed historical enquiry form to the Archivist in the post or via email. We will acknowledge receipt of your enquiry within five working days and endeavour to answer your queries within 10 working days (although at times of high demand it may take longer).

Genealogy Resources at RCS

SurgiCat

You can check whether we hold any archival records created by, or relating to, your ancestor by searching our online catalogue SurgiCat. The catalogue also covers the museum collections of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. To get an idea of the kind of records we keep you can also see our holdings summary or our collections policy.

Lives of the Fellows

The library has been compiling an online collection of biographical memoirs of past fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons. This is available at Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online. If the person you're looking for isn't here, the editor may still hold information on them but it might not have been made available yet.

Genealogy Resources Elsewhere

Other sources for tracing medical ancestors

Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

If your ancestor turns out not to have been a member or fellow of this College, it may be that they were in fact a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

The Worshipful Company of Barbers

The Worshipful Company of Barbers amalgamated with the Surgeons Guild in 1540, then in 1745 The Barber-Surgeons Company divided again. Today, the Company of Barbers has closer ties with surgeons than with barbers.

The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London

From 1672 until 1922, the Society of Apothecaries manufactured and sold medicinal and pharmaceutical products. In the nineteenth century the Society was given the right to conduct examinations and to grant licences to practice medicine in England and Wales.

The Royal College of Physicians

Your ancestor may have been a member of the Royal College of Physicians, which was established by Henry VIII in 1518. 'Munk's Roll' contains biographies of Fellows.

Royal College of General Practitioners

The Royal College of General Practitioners Archives pages include a section on 'researching a medical ancestor'. This provides details of directories, records and sources, both UK and overseas, as well as helpful information concerning the qualifications awarded by the different Medical Royal Colleges.

General family history resources

GENUKI - UK and Ireland Genealogy - GENUKI is a "virtual reference library" of genealogical information that is of particular relevance to the UK & Ireland.

Guildhall Library Manuscripts Section - The Manuscripts Section of Guildhall Library is the local record office for the City of London. Its holdings date from the 11th century.

Helpers (Higher Education Libraries in your PERsonal history reSearch) - Online guide to using the resources held in London University's libraries and archives for family and local history research.

Hospital Records Database - Information on the existence and location of the records of hospitals in the UK compiled as part of a joint project by the Wellcome Trust and the National Archives.

London Metropolitan Archives - About the Archives and a database of genealogical sources.

National Archives - The Public Record Office is the national archive of the United Kingdom and contains the records from the 11th century of central government and the courts of law. The website has a catalogue of its collections.

Society of Genealogists - The Society of Genealogists Library contains a large collection of family histories, civil registration and census material, and over 9,000 Parish Register copies.

Wellcome Library - A search can give you references to BMJ and Lancet obituaries and other biographical information.

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