A guide to researching health and welfare records for family historians
State Library Victoria holds many resources that can be used to research ancestors who trained or worked as a doctor, nurse or other health professional in Victoria.
These range from memoirs or biographies of practitioners to histories of training institutions and hospitals; photographs of hospitals and training institutions, many of which feature staff members (though few are individually identified) and historical registration examination papers, industry journals and newsletters.
Search the Library catalogue for the name of a hospital or academy where your ancestor trained or worked, or for more general keywords such as: nursing victoria history, medical training victoria, or bush nursing victoria
Or search for the names of individuals, or use subject headings relevant to the profession of interest, such as:
Use the catalogue drop-down menu to limit your search to 'Pictures & photographs', 'Journals & newspaper titles' or 'Manuscripts'.
Doctor Smith, Geelong. 1860. H6009
Directories can include a variety of information on medical professionals, including - name, place, age, speciality and an education summary.
Here is a selection of directories held in our collection.
A collection of directories can also be accessed through the following databases.
In our collection you can find many industry journals that contain news about developments in the profession, and biographical and organisational data about people, health groups and hospitals.
Some, like UNA: Journal of the Victorian Trained Nurses Association (1903-1976), are being progressively digitised and made freely available online via the Library website.
Here are a few more journals which may help you with your research -
UNA: Journal of the Royal Victorian Trained Nurses' Association. no.6, vol. 6,1908.
Many hospitals hold large archival collections of material recording the history, development and achievements of their institution. Some larger hospitals may also hold material from defunct or affiliated hospitals. Material may include administrative records, photographs, newsletters, images, annual reports, memoirs, oral histories and casebooks.
In most cases research is mediated by archive staff and access conditions may apply. Please contact the relevant hospital archive for further information.
A number of hospitals have transferred collections of historic administrative records to the Public Record Office Victoria. As an example, this PROV blog - What's new in 2022 details the transfer of records from Monash Health – Queen Victoria Medical Centre and includes a full list of the records.
The records of several defunct 19th and 20th century hospitals and asylums are housed at PROV. The range and coverage of staff related records varies for each institution but may include - staff registers, staff leave registers, employment history cards and nurse training record books
To find these records go to the PROV website and using the Collection search box enter the name of the hospital and additional keywords i.e. Beechworth asylum staff register. Or Fairfield nurses. Browse through the list of results until you find the relevant collection. Click on the title and follow the prompts to order items. Alternately, you can contact PROV using their Contact us website.
Education and training
Public Records Office Victoria (PROV) also holds many records of health professional employment, registration and training from public hospitals, which can contain personal descriptions of trainees, their academic performance, information about the training undertaken, and details of employment.
Nurse Training Records 1910 - 1964, Public Record Office Victoria, VPRS 18163/P0001.
Historical health practitioner registration records:
Depending on the time period you're researching, medical workers may have needed to be registered to work in their profession. State registration requirements meant that lists of registered practitioners were required to be published and publicly available. Up until 1991, the Victorian registers were usually published in or as separate issues of the Victorian Government Gazette.
Occupational registers can be found in the Victoria government gazette online archive 1836–1997. You can search the full text of the Gazettes through the AUSTLII website, however the online archive only allows you to search the Gazettes' indexes. The Help section for the online archive contains a link to AUSTLII along with some instructions for searching the full text.
Current health practitioner registration records:
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) keeps a public, searchable list of practitioners registered to practice in Australia in various health professions, including any limitations placed on practitioners. The Agency also provides a list of cancelled practitioners, and practitioners who have formally agreed not to practice.
Click on the relevant occupation tab listed at the top of this box to find a list of registration sources.
(includes hygienists and prosthetists)
State Library Victoria
The State Library also holds the following resource -
The following registers can also be found in our collection.
PROV holds copies of the following registers
Items can be ordered for viewing in PROV's North Melbourne reading room.
The following registers can also be found in our collection.
PROV holds copies of the following register -
A range of Victorian newspapers from the years 1803-1954 are available on the Trove Digitised Newspaper database. Search for newspaper articles and stories relating to an individual, a hospital or a place. When searching Trove, try searching for a number of keywords i.e. Dunolly midwife, try enclosing a phrase in quotation marks i.e. "Margaret Anderson" nurse Geelong.
Conference of nurses. The Herald. 4 Feb. 1946, p. 5.
If the newspaper isn't on Trove you may need to explore the collections held in the State Library's Newspapers & Family History Reading Rooms.
Our Library subscribes to a wide range of current and historic Australian and international newspapers databases. They are available in the Library and many can be accessed offsite by Victorian residents who are registered State Library members.
More information can be found in our Newspapers research guides.