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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 Associations (cont.)
Like physicians’ records, those relating to nurses in Canada are scattered widely. As with physicians, there have been a number of books written about nursing in Canada. It’s a good idea to check out the published materials at Library and Archives Canada and at various other libraries to see if there is a history book that might have relevant material relating to an ancestor. For example, Below the flight path: a history of the Royal Alexandra Hospital and School of Nursing is available at Library and Archives Canada and several other libraries, some of which will make it available for interlibrary loan. In the past, most nurses were educated directly in hospitals, so not only can you search for nursing history books, but also books relating to the history of a particular hospital.
As with searching for physicians, you may find archives where a nurse’s records have been deposited. Examples include the Joyce Nevitt Papers, whose papers are at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives. Joyce Nevitt’s papers contain 3.6 meters of material relating to this nurse’s life as she taught at various nursing schools and became the founding director of Memorial University of Newfoundland’s School of Nursing. Another example is the Kay Dier fonds, whose records are at the Alberta Association of Registered Nurses Archives and Museum.
A further search of the Canadiana Discovery Portal for Joyce Nevitt indicated 89 results. However, just the search term ‘nurse’ came up with over 16,000 records, indicating that the term may be too general. If your ancestor was in the nursing profession, you can hopefully find some information through these resources by entering either their name, the school of nursing they attended or the place they practiced. And, as with physicians, don’t forget to try the CAIN database at Archives Canada.
Because nurses have to join a professional association, contacting the appropriate association is also an option when searching for genealogical information. Nursing associations are provincial, so you would have to know which province a nurse practiced in before you could contact the appropriate association. Most of these associations have not been in existence for a long period of time, so you are not going to find a nurse who practiced 100 years ago. For those nurses, it is best to try the above methods of research. Like most other associations, you will find some more willing to give out information than others. Also, while some associations have kept records, others have disposed of them.
Below are the provincial associations (in alphabetical order), and (of those who replied to my queries) their policies regarding giving out personal information. Please note that these associations refer to Registered Nurses. For those of other designations (e.g., Registered Nursing Assistant, Registered Practical Nurse) you will need to search on the Internet for their association.
- Alberta College and Association of Registered Nurses
11620-168 Street North West
Edmonton Alberta T5M 4A6
Telephone: (800) 252-9392 or (780) 451-0043
What they say: ‘The Alberta Association of Registered Nurses is the provincial licensing body for nurses in Alberta. We do maintain the registry of nurses who have worked in the province. If you have a name and a date for when the person might have graduated from a nursing program or have worked in Alberta I might be able to find some very basic information for you. I have some records I can check if your ancestor was a registered nurse in Alberta. Please send all the information you know about this person and I will check our records.’
- Association of Registered Nurses of British Columbia
100 – 1450 Creekside Drive
Vancouver, British Columbia V6J 5B3
Telephone: (604) 737-1304
- College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba
890 Pembina Highway
Winnipeg Manitoba R3M 2M8
Telephone: (204) 774-3477
- Nurses Association of New Brunswick Association des infirmières et infirmiers du Nouveau-Brunswick
165 Regent Street
Fredericton New Brunswick E3B 7B4
Telephone: (506) 458-8731
What they say: ‘I will forward your request to the NANB Nursing History Resource Center.’
Newfoundland and Labrador
- Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador
55 Military Road
St. John’s Newfoundland A1C 2C5
Telephone: (709) 753-6040
What they say: ‘I can let you know that our official records go back to 1954 only and there are some limits on the information we can release. We do have some archival documents on years prior to 1954 but it is not complete for every nurse.
We would need to know your relative’s maiden name, married name, year of graduation, approximate years she worked as a nurse, and the school of nursing she graduated from. If she graduated from a Newfoundland school of nursing, some of the schools have good archival information.
For example, the General Hospital School of Nursing has its own archives which is open to the public every Thursday afternoon. St. Clare’s School has archival records too. I’m not so sure about the Grace Hospital School.’
- Registered Nurses Association of Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Yellowknife Northwest Territories X1A 2R1
Telephone: (867) 873-2745
What they say: ‘The “Register” of nurses—i.e. name and registration number—is public information. If you were to provide the name of the relative, I would be able to tell you if s/he had been registered in the NWT.
Please note that NWTRNA has only been doing registration of nurses since 1972. If you are looking for older information than that, I cannot help you. I believe that back then, when service was provided through Medical Services Branch of federal Health and Welfare, that nurses had to be registered to work in the NWT, but that registration could be in any other jurisdiction in Canada.’
- College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia
Suite 4005-7071 Bayers Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3L 2C2
Telephone: (902) 491-9744
- Registered Nurses Association of Ontario
Association des infirmières et infirmiers autorisés de l’Ontario
158 Pearl St.
Toronto, Ontario M5H 1L3
Telephone: (800)268-7199 / (416) 599-1925
What they say: ‘Membership in RNAO is generally optional. You would probably be more interested in contacting the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO), the licencing and regulatory body in the province.’
College of Nurses of Ontario
- Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers de l’Ontario
101 Davenport Road
Toronto Ontario M5R 3P1
Telephone: 1-800-387-5526 in Ontario) / (416) 928-0900
Prince Edward Island
- Association of Nurses of Prince Edward Island
53 Grafton St
Charlottetown Prince Edward Island C1A 1K8
Telephone: (902) 368-3764
What they say: ‘Please forward the name of your ancestor and we will see what information we can provide.’
- Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec
4200 boul. Dorchester Ouest
WestmontQC H3Z 1V4
Telephone: (514) 935-2501 / 1-800-363-6048 (in Québec)
- Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association
2066 Retallack Street
Regina SK S4T 7X5
Telephone: 1-800-667-9945 (in Saskatchewan) / (306) 359-4200
What they say: ‘We do have records of nurses who were registered in Saskatchewan. This information is confidential for 50 years from the initial registration date.’
- Yukon Registered Nurses Association
Suite 204 4133 4th Avenue
Whitehorse Yukon Territory Y1A 1H8
Telephone: (867) 667-4062
What they say: ‘YRNA does have privacy policies requiring that the only information we can release is the name of current active practicing members. We have never had a request before for “historical” member names.
I don’t know what period your ancestor practiced as a nurse in the Yukon; however, the Yukon Registered Nurses Association (YRNA) only came into existence in 1994. Prior to that, nurses working in the Yukon could hold registration in any other Canadian jurisdiction and be eligible to work here.
There was a Yukon Nurses Society from 1980 to 1994 but it was not a registering body—strictly a professional and collegial group.
You could try contacting a provincial nursing association where your ancestor might have been registered although that would not give you much information about her work in the Yukon. Another suggestion would be to contact Health Canada as Medical Services Branch was the employer for many nurses working in the Yukon prior to 1997 (when responsibility for health transferred to the Yukon government). Also, Yukon Archives might have information although, as I mentioned, we have never (to this point) transferred any records to them.’
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