Unusual Source: Medical Journals


I love unusual and less used sources. They are often overlooked for a number of reasons including that they may not contain a lot of vital information. However, the information they do contain can still be vital to your research efforts, and so fascinating to read. If you are looking to put some “meat on the bones” of your ancestors, or maybe you have an early ancestor for whom you don’t have a birth date and place, or perhaps you lost them somewhere along their road, and they happened to have graduated from medical school in the early nineteenth century, you will definitely want to look at the early medical journals of that era. By no means a comprehensive list, the following titles may help you get started.

The Philadelphia journal of the medical and physical sciences which later became The American journal of the medical sciences, contains lists of graduates from the various medical colleges. The Journal of foreign medical science and literature, also published a list of medical graduates from the University of Pennsylvania, and began a decade or so before the Philadelphia Journal, as did the American medical and philosophical register, which published graduates from the college of Physicians and Surgeons in New York (as well as The New-York monthly chronicle of medicine and surgery), and The New-England journal of medicine and surgery, which published a list of Harvard medical graduates.

The information is useful for adding to your knowledge about your ancestor in several ways. It may not only tell you what year your ancestor graduated, but what school he attended and the subject of his thesis. This information may even lead you to other source materials you never thought to search. In some cases this may be the only proof that your ancestor attended a particular college and lived in a particular area.

Aside from offering information on doctors, you may also find some interesting information on the area your family hails from, or even a case study involving one of your ancestors. Some early volumes of these medical journals are even available online at Google Books, so go check them out!

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