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Records of 1.5 million nurses digitised by RCN

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) records of more than 1.5 million nurses have been digitised for the first time by a family history website.

Launched yesterday, the records database spans nurses’ registrations and appointments from 1891 to 1968, and provides a rare glimpse into nursing and women’s history in the UK.

The online resource is being launched in the College’s centenary year with RCN founder Dame Sarah Swift’s records amongst those now preserved digitally.   

As her record shows, she was trained in the Dundee Royal Infirmary and received her certificate in nursing in 1880.

Her extensive experience and contacts with the matrons of large and prestigious hospitals meant that she was ideally placed to found the College of Nursing.

Other famous nurses on the new database include Dame Joanna Margaret Cruickshank, the founder of the Royal Air Force Nursing Service, and Dame Emily Mathieson Blair, former Matron-in-Chief of the British Red Cross Society.

The resource, which also includes records from the Wellcome Trust, gives families and historians the chance to uncover previously untold stories of nurses from the UK and overseas.

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “The RCN is committed to preserving the history of the nursing profession, so it’s wonderful to see the records of so many inspiring nurses being digitised for the very first time, especially during our centenary year.

“Nurses have touched the lives of so many families, and this resource gives people the chance to travel back in time to discover the real lives of their nursing relatives.

“Caring for the nation for generations, often through wars and crises, these nursing staff deserve to be remembered, and this unique project will help preserve their legacy for many more years to come.”

To see the records, visit the Ancestry website. Members wishing to view the records without subscription can visit their nearest RCN Library.