Was one of your ancestors listed as a doctor or physician on a US census? You may have wondered when and where your ancestor received his or her education to become a doctor. A little-known resource, called Deceased American Physicians, 1864-1970, is a card index of all known doctors in the United States that died from 1864 to 1970. This card index is located at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland, and is available on microfilm at the Family History Library and on loan at family history centers.
The microfilmed card index was compiled by the American Medical Association (AMA). It includes biographical information about the doctors, including where they obtained their degree and where they practiced. It also includes some death information when the AMA was able to locate it. The index is in alphabetical order by last name, then by first name.
Because these cards were filled out over many years, the differences and abbreviations on the cards vary. For a typical card, the first information listed indicates the doctor’s birthplace and birth date, when known. It then lists the school and graduation date. Death dates are sometimes included, although many cards only recorded the stamped word “DEAD.”
Information varies from doctor to doctor. For instance, Dr. John Salvatore Fiorella’s card listed his birth in Buffalo, New York, and that he graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha in 1936. He practiced at the Lafayette General Hospital in Buffalo and died there at age 34 on 19 March 1944. When known, the cause of death was included–Dr. Fiorella died of coronary thrombosis, hypertension, and chronic nephritis.
Yet the card for Dr. Thomas Henry Abbott stated he practiced in St. George, South Carolina and died 4 May 1908, with no further information listed.
Some cards follow the doctor’s career and list the different places they practiced. Dr. Mary Caroline Abney Squillace was born in Blackwater, Missouri, and graduated from Christian College in Columbia, Missouri, in 1930. She then practiced medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Marshallton, Delaware; New York City; Washington, DC; Alexandria Virginia; and San Juan, Puerto Rico—all before she died at the age of 33 in 1945.
The AMA also included information for some foreign doctors including those in Canada. Dr. Andrew Samuel Moorhead graduated in 1906 somewhere in Ontario and later practiced in 1913 in Toronto, Ontario. No other information was known. Dr. E.L. Abogado was from Mexico and published a medical journal called Cronica Medico Mexicana.
This collection of 237 films can be accessed at your local family history center. It is only necessary to order the film containing the last name you are researching. To determine the correct microfilm number, view the catalog entry.
For example, if the last name you are looking for is Nelson, you would choose the film that starts with the last name Nason and ends with last name Neufarth: microfilm number 2051702. To find a family history center, click family history center.
A portion of the information found in this card index can also be found in the Ancestry.com database, Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929. This information is taken from a published directory also by the American Medical Association. This database covers an earlier time period than the card index but only goes to 1929 and does not have as much detail as the card index. You can access Ancestry.com for free at the Family History Library and at your local family history center.