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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian Local Histories and Special Collections by Michelle LaBrosse-Purcell, B.Sc., MLIS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Professional organizations are another place to check when you are looking for a bit more information on a person. If an organization can provide you with dates or places for where a person worked, you might be able to then use that information to further your search.
Records relating to physicians in Canada are scattered widely, and you must decide what it is you want to know about the doctor before starting the search for records.
If, for example, you are interested in his or her educational career, the best place to start is the university that they attended. Yearbooks are usually available, and, depending on the university, you are likely to find an archive, which may contain student association records, newspapers, photographs, etc., which could give you more information about the time your ancestor spent at the University.
If you are interested in a practicing physician, you can turn to a number of publications which list physicians in Canada. For example, List of members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta is a periodical, which, if the person you are looking for is in Alberta, would tell you where the person is working, and what their specialty is. A search for this publication through Amicus, the Canadian National Catalogue, indicates copies are available at Library and Archives Canada and at the University of Calgary, McGill University and the University of Alberta libraries. A similar directory is available online for currently practicing physicians and surgeons in Manitoba.
A former physician from Alberta might be found in Medical biographies from Alberta, past and present, or The Early medical history of Edmonton: with notes on the organization of the Edmonton Academy of Medicine. These types of publications are available for physicians across Canada. You can just as easily find The medical directory of Toronto and suburbs, or A history of medicine in Nova Scotia, 1784-1854. All of these books are available from Library and Archives Canada and possibly other libraries as well. Of course, the usual methods for finding out about any person—Census records, newspapers, cemetery records, etc., can also be just as helpful in finding out about a physician as any other person. The Library and Archives Canada’s Catalog is available online.
Not only does the entry in the online catalogue above describe the holding, but it also tells you what libraries across the country house it, the length of time for a loan, and whether or not it is available for interlibrary loan or, indeed, if the item circulates at all or must be used on-site.
Of course, you also might be interested in finding the actual records kept by a physician. Because any records kept by a physician are private records of a business, they are not usually donated to an archive. However, Library and Archives Canada does hold some private records donated by doctors or other medical personnel. Privacy legislation controls who might have access to such records. Each province has regulations about how long medical records of patients are to be kept.
If you are looking for information about a particular physician of some note, (for example, Emily Stowe, the first Canadian woman openly to practice medicine in Canada) you can type “Emily Stowe” into a general search engine such as Google and find that the Archives of Ontario have the Emily Howard Stowe Papers and also papers relating to her daughter, Augusta Ann Stowe-Gullen, who also went on to become a doctor; that Wilfrid Laurier University has a collection of photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, and other material complied by and about Emily Stowe and her daughter Augusta Stowe-Gullen; and that Library and Archives Canada has archived information about her life and work. Similarly, a search could be made through Canadiana.org for information and documents regarding Emily Stowe.
Library and Archives Canada also holds the following records which might be useful in your search for your ancestor:
- Medical Board Certificates and Reports, Upper Canada (Ontario), 1819-1854 (RG 5 B9)
- Québec, Lower Canada, Canada East: Applications for Medical Licences, 1788-1848 (RG 4 B28)
- Register of Medical Licences Issued, Upper and Lower Canada (Ontario and Quebec), 1819-1867 (RG 68)
- Registers of Licences for Surgery and Midwifery, Canada West (Ontario), 1866-1867 (RG 68)
- Register of Coroners of Upper Canada (Ontario), 1800-1867 (RG 68)
Another searchable database you could use is the CAIN (Canadian Archival Information Network) database. Here you will find some contributions from some physicians such as Dr. Thomas Wesley Poole (1831-1905) in the Trent University Archives or Dr. Frederick Bell at the University of British Columbia Archives. However, please be aware that these collections are not patient records; rather they consist of personal items such as diaries, letters, and miscellaneous papers, but you may find some interesting opinions and perspectives on medical issues of the day.
Of course, there are always the provincial medical associations you can contact. As with most professional associations, each one tends to have a slightly different policy about releasing information. However, it never hurts to ask! Here are the addresses (in alphabetical order by province):
British Columbia Medical Association
115-1665 West Broadway
Vancouver, British Columbia
Telephone: (604) 736-5551
20 Desjardins Drive
Telephone: (204) 985-5888
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association
164 MacDonald Drive
St. John’s, Newfoundland-
Telephone: (709) 7267424
Ontario Medical Association
150 Bloor Street West, Suite 900
Telephone: (416) 599-2580
Prince Edward Island
Medical Society of Prince Edward Island
2 Myrtle Street
Stratford, Prince Edward Island
Telephone: (902) 368-7303
Finally, it is possible to search for the obituaries or death notices of Canadian medical personal that appeared in various medical journals between 1844 and 2000. This database is searchable by last name, first name, title or volume of journal and year of publication.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Canadian Local Histories and Special Collections offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.
- This page was last modified on 4 November 2014, at 15:47.
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