Family History Research at LHSA

Was your ancestor a hospital patient?

We hold the patient records of many of the hospitals which have existed within Edinburgh and the Lothians over the past three centuries along with one from the Borders region - Roxburgh, Berwick and Selkirk District Asylum - later known as Dingleton Hospital.

Please note that patient records within the last 100 years are covered by data protection legislation in the first instance and may also be covered by Scottish Government guidelines covering the medical records of the deceased. 

Further information on confidentiality and restrictions on access

If you think your ancestor was a hospital patient, it is vital to have the following information before you begin your research:

  • Patient name
  • Patient date of birth/age at time of admission
  • Hospital name
  • Dates of admission/discharge/death

The types of record that you may be able to consult are:

  • General Register of Patients (indexed for some hospitals/dates and not others)
  • Admission Registers
  • Registers of Births
  • Ward Journals
  • Case Books
  • Folder-based case notes
  • Registers of Deaths

For psychiatric patients, you may also be able to consult:

  • Certification Papers
  • Board Books
  • Registers of accidents
  • Registers of escapes
  • Registers of discharges

Points to note

  • Survival rates for records vary considerably from hospital to hospital, there is no guarantee that the records of your ancestors will have survived.
  • The quality and amount of information contained within records vary from hospital to hospital.  For example, an entry in the General Register of Patients for the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for instance will consist of only one line, including brief personal details, e.g. occupation, address, whether the patient is married/widowed, their religion, age and their “native place”.  However, an entry from a case book of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital may give a much more comprehensive history, including details of other family members who have spent time in asylums. 
  • The information recorded by a hospital changes over time.  For example, in the Royal Edinburgh Maternity Hospital Registers of Birth, the name of the father (whether married or not) was recorded from 1847 – 1876, after this date it was not.


  • When searching asylum records it is important to keep in mind that many illnesses which today are easily treatable (such as post-natal depression) could result in a long incarceration in the past, so don’t worry unduly if more than one of your ancestors spent time there.  Count it as a blessing because the records are much more detailed than in other hospitals!

To get started

1) Look up the collection catalogue for the particular hospital you are interested in to find out what records are available.

Edinburgh and Lothian Hospital Catalogues

Dingleton Hospital

Advice on Searching our Catalogues

2) Contact us to make an appointment to come in and consult the records, or to make an enquiry.

Contact Us