Genealogy research reveals record breaking doctors

The Australian version of genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are is to feature a record-breaking family of doctors who originated in Dumbarton, the west of Scotland.

Dr John Robertson of Dumbarton had eight sons, all of whom went on to train at the University of Glasgow and become doctors. The sons attended the university from the 1880s onwards and went on to be mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records in 1989.

The history of the family was uncovered by Australian researchers working for Who Do You Think You Are Australia, investigating the family tree of film, television and theatre actress, Marta Dusseldorp.

University of Glasgow archives

The researchers worked with the University of Glasgow’s archivists and discovered the Robertson’s medical record story in the 1976 edition of the graduate’s association magazine. The article said Dr John Robertson and his wife Elizabeth had fifteen children in total, and ten of them were boys. Eight of them ended up at the university studying medicine.

The magazine article reported that the story had been recounted by Mabel Robertson, the widow of the youngest son, Frank. Mrs Robertson remembered one of the professors under whom the medical undergraduates studied asking in bewilderment, how many more of them were there?

Once they had qualified, the eight sons moved all over the world—England, Australia and South Africa. One son died young and only one of them stayed in Scotland.

Emigrated to Australia

Frederick Gordon Robertson began his medical training at the University of Glasgow in 1901, and he eventually immigrated to Australia. Marta Dusseldorp, who starred in the BBC1 Australian drama A Place to Call Home, is Frederick’s great-granddaughter. She visited the University of Glasgow as part of the filming of her story.

In a news piece in the Scotsman, she said she had been very close to her maternal grandfather, Sandy who had been Frederick’s son and another doctor. She described his as a wonderful role model and inspiration. Her brother John is a doctor working in Sydney.

She added that when she had embarked on the Who Do You Think You Are journey, she’d known medicine was in her family’s blood and thought she might encounter more doctors. However, the extent of the medical profession in her genes and how far it went back came as a surprise.

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