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Hospital Records

Nature of Source

Medical records of those treated in a hospital or records of those born or who died in a hospital. The very early hospitals such as St. Thomas's Hospital in London were built by the church and run by monastic orders but were shut down by Henry VIII during the dissolution of the monasteries between 1536 and 1541. Some secular hospitals had also been founded by voluntary contributions by individuals and by charities and these institutions expanded operations soon after the dissolution. The major hospital expansion began in the 18th and 19th centuries including Westminster Hospital (1719), Guy’s Hospital (1721) Middlesex Hospital (1745). Many parish-run hospitals were located in the poorhouse or workhouse with some of these institutions later commissioned as NHS hospitals.

Baptisms took place at lying-in (maternity) hospitals which were established in the 18th century. The birth and baptism records from the British Lying in Hospital, Endell Street, Holborn, 1747-1868, are contained within series RG 8 at The National Archives and can be searched at BMD Registers. Giving birth in general hospitals only became common practice with the establishment of the NHS. Before WWII, the vast majority of women gave birth at home although hospitals might have some record of a baptism having taken place within the grounds.

Modern patient records are subject to the Data Protection Act but close relatives can gain access to an ancestor’s patient records under the Freedom of Information Act. Patient records for adults aged 16 and over are closed for 84 years from the date of the record; for children between the ages of seven and fifteen closure is for 93 years and for infants aged nought to six closure remains for 100 years. For guidance on accessing patient records see the web site of the Health Archives and Records Group. In the absence of a patient name index, it is obviously critical to at least know the approximate admission date of the patient when looking for records.

See also
Doctor, Surgeon & Nurses Records
Lunatic Asylum Records

Where Found

Hospital Archives
County Record Offices (Hospital registers including burials as well as other administrative records)
University Archives
London Metropolitan Archives (Admission and discharge records and other records for 130 hospitals, some outside London, including Guy's, Royal Free Hospital, City of London Lying in Hospital and Saint Thomas' and major charities such as the Foundling Hospital)
St Bartholomew's Hospital Archives (The Archives holds the records of St Bartholomew's Hospital as well as records on individuals and of other related hospitals, institutions, organisations in the City, East London and beyond, including The German Hospital, the Metropolitan Hospital and a number of parish records)
The Royal London Hospital Archives
(The Archives holds the records of The Royal London Hospital as well as records on individuals and of other related hospitals, institutions, organisations including the London Jewish Hospital, Bethnal Green Hospital, Mile End Hospital and the Royal Brompton Hospital)
Royal Free Hospital Archives Centre (The archive collection is held at the London Metropolitan Archives. Records include admission and discharge records and other records covering the Royal Free Hospital, Royal National Throat Nose & Ear Hospital, Royal Free Hospital School Of Medicine, Childrens Hospital Hampstead, Coppetts Wood Hospital, Hampstead General Hospital, London Fever Hospital, New End Hospital, North Western Fever Hospital. A selection of photos from the archive can be viewed at Flickr)
Wellcome Library

Period Covered

1700 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Name, address date of birth, date of death of patient.

Further References

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

Carruthers, Dr Barry G. & Carruthers, Lesley A. A History of Britain's Hospitals and the Background to the Medical, Nursing and Allied Professions: Book Guild Publishing, 2005

Higgs, Michelle. Life in the Victorian Hospital: The History Press, 2009

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

Mitton, Lavinia. The Victorian Hospital: Shire Publications, 2008

Porter, Roy. Blood and Guts: A Short History of Medicine: Penguin, 2003 Buy Now on Amazon
Porter, Roy. Bodies Politic: Disease, Death and Doctors in Britain, 1650-1900: Cornell University Press, 2001 Buy Now on Amazon

Thomas, Amanda. The Lambeth Cholera Outbreak of 1848-1849: McFarland and Co, 2009 (includes references to and indexes of individual cases)

Webb, Cliff. An Index of London Hospitals and their Records: Society of Genealogists, 2002

Wilkes, Sue. Tracing Your Ancestors' Childhood: Pen and Sword Books, 2013


Wills, Simon. How Our Ancestors Died: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword, 2013


Woolf, Alex. Past in Pictures: A Photographic View of Hospitals: Wayland, 2013  

Websites (Biographical and family history sources in the Wellcome Library) (Researching Illness) (Victorian Times Project: Sections include Health, Progress in understanding health and disease) (Lost Hospitals Of London. This website is in memory of all the hospitals that have closed in London since the NHS came into being in 1948) (Articles relating to Great Ormond Street Hospital and Cromwell House, Alexandra Hip Hospital, Evelina Hospital, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow and other articles on the health and healthcare in 19th century Britain) (St Bartholomew's Hospital Museum) (The Royal London Hospital museum)
(The History of Dorset County Hospital. The website is about the history of Dorset County Hospital before it became part of the National Health Service. Resources include Admission Registers, Burial Registers and Census Returns) (Science Museum's History of Medicine) (History of hospitals) (The Foundling Museum) (MedTerms medical dictionary) (Rudy's List of Archaic Medical Terms. A glossary of archaic medical terms, diseases and causes of death and their old and modern definitions) (National Records of Scotland: Old Parish Registers-Cause of Death: list of medical terms collected from various 18th and 19th century sources including the Old Parish Registers) (Victorian Web: Nineteenth-Century British Medicine and Public Health) (British Library: Learning: Victorians: Health)

Online Databases

Hospital Records Database (The National Archives and The Wellcome Trust joint project listing repositories which hold records relating to a particular UK hospital. The database will show the present and past name and location of hospital, the administrative details and history of the hospital and the existence of lists, catalogues or other finding aids. Consult TNA's ARCHON Directory for more information about the repositories holding the records) (Voluntary Hospitals Database: Information on British and Irish voluntary hospitals extracted from Burdett’s Hospitals and Charities: The Year Book of Philanthropy and Hospital Annual published between 1892 and 1930 and its successor, The Hospitals Yearbook. For each hospital expect to find details of location, foundation date, governors, staff, beds, patients and total income and expenditure with the facility to download more detailed statistics)
(Derbyshire Hospital Admissions and Deaths 1892-1913. The records are taken from two sources: Derbyshire Royal Infirmary, Deaths 1892-1912 and Victoria Memorial Cottage Hospital, Ashbourne Admissions 1899-1913. In the records you will find your ancestor’s age, residence, reason for admittance to the hospital, admission date and whether he/she was cured, operated on or died) (Northamptonshire, Northampton General Hospital Admissions 1774-1846. The original hospital records can be found at the Northamptonshire Record Office and provide the individual’s ailment and the outcome of the case)
(Derbyshire Hospital Admissions and Deaths, 1855-1913)
(Surrey institutional records 1788-1939. Records from 16 institutions across, including poor law unions, workhouses, schools, infirmaries, goals and more) (London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1916: City of London Lying in Hospital, Finsbury. The collection is found within the Borough of Islington) (BMJ archive: Searchable online access to every British Medical Journal article published since the journal's first issue dating back to October 1840 and includes births, marriages, deaths and obituaries)
(Partial whereabouts of records including admissions registers and patient records and other administrative records. The Aim25 website contains catalogue description of holdings of education institutions, learned, scientific, social and cultural organisations, mostly within the M25 region. It has descriptions and whereabouts of organisation's archives including a short history of the organisation. AIM25 is similar to Access to Archives but with an emphasis on educational institutions but is also worth checking for non-educational organisations) (Historic Hospital Admission Records Project: Great Ormond Street admission records, 1852-1914; Cromwell House convalescent home, 1869-1910; Evelina Hospital now part of Guy's and St Thomas's NHS Foundation Trust, 1874-1877/1889-1902; the Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Disease, 1867-1895; Royal Glasgow Sick Children's Hospital, 1883-1903) (London Lives: St Thomas's Hospital Admissions Registers)
(Surrey History Centre Indexes: Patients in the St Peter’s Memorial Home in Woking)
(Subscribers to the Devon & Exeter Hospital, 1748) (Wellcome Library Collections: Free to use access to images with themes ranging from medical and social history to contemporary healthcare and biomedical science. Media types include photographs, ephemera, maps, paintings, etchings, advertisements and drawings)