22 March 2013

Tips on Researching Institutionalized Ancestors

Source: http://cantonasylumforinsaneindians.com/history_blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Waupaca.jpg


Kathleen Brandt (a3Genealogy) posted a piece titled Tips on Researching Institutionalized Ancestors  Do read her post as well as the provided comments.

I have written about my one “known” insane ancestor who became a “mad hatter” and for whom I have seen a postmortem photograph of. Postmorten photography at the turn of the 20th century.

Some related articles you might check out:


Have you successfully researched an institutionalized ancestor?

Do you have your own tips for researching those who have been institutionalized?





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7 comments:

  1. Turns out my gggrandfather was not a widower when he remarried. He was divorced from my gggrandmother before she was admitted to an insane asylum after which he remarried. She lived in the asylum for 37 years. Discovered her in a census that listed "inmates". The family just never talked about her so no stories exist, at least none have surfaced to date. In researching the asylum, I found a recently published book about its history, emailed the author about admission records, etc. and she referred me to the repository and contact person for the records which I now have along with court commitment records. My tip: look for records despite naysayers talking about privacy. Track where the records went. My ancestor's asylum records went to a university library special collection. Thanks for the referral to Kathleen Brandt and the related articles.

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  2. History of Dorothea Dix Hospital, Raleigh, NC
    http://www.ncdhhs.gov/dsohf/services/dix/history.htm

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  3. I have researched my husband's grandfather who died at the Florida State Mental Hospital in Chattahoochee, Gadsden County, FL. He was much older than his wife and died 01 Sept 1926. I was able to obtain his medical records and commitment papers from the Florida Archives in Tallahassee, FL. His diagnosis was senile dementia which was a common commitment diagnosis in the early part of the century. The problem has been with the place of burial. Oral tradition was that he was buried in the hospital cemetery. There are five cemeteries associated with the hospital and most in poor condition and not easily accessible. In 2011 Chicora.org, a non-profit concerned with the preservation of cemeteries, was contracted by FL to do an assessment of the cemeteries. They did an excellent job and their report is over 240 pages of assessment, history, recommedations, maps, diagrams, etc., of all five cemeteries. Unfortunately, Cemetery #4, which he is listed buried in, is the most need of preservation and only one grave has a commercial marker. Graves are distinguishable only by sunken areas and the area is completely forested. My research continues and my goal is to find his exact grave site so that the family will be able to install a permanent marker. I have plans to continue at the Archives and research the Mortician's Ledger and Death Ledger to see if there was any correspondance concerning his death with family members in Hillsborough County. I believe I have uncovered some "shinanigans" in his commitment. His wife was much younger and had a farm and 5 small children. The Sheriff in Hillsborough County was a relative of the family with an office next door to the judge who handed down the commitment papers and declared the grandfather insane but listed him as indigent and widowed. The grandmother also listed herself as widowed on the census - before his death. I am thinking maybe this was done, on the sly, to have him committed without financial responsibility of the family. Just a theory now but interesting events. It is intriguing though. Next of kin on the commitment papers is the Sheriff and no mention of any other family.

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  4. Thanks so much for the mention and reference to a3Genealogy! Love the comments.

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  5. Thanks so much for the comment and reference to a3Genealogy.com!
    Kathleen

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  6. Kathleen ... it was nice to share such a neat article about such important research ... thanks for sharing with the genealogy community!

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  7. Recent article posted by Gena Philibert-Ortega at Genealogybank, Researching Ancestors Who Were Committed to Asylums, Using Old Newspapers, http://blog.genealogybank.com/researching-ancestors-who-were-committed-to-asylums-using-old-newspapers.html

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