Finding Your Relatives Who Were in Mental Institutions

Sharon Tate Moody writes a great column this week on how to find information on our relatives that ended up in mental institutions. This type of research is often a challenge, for the state hospitals will seldom divulge patient information, no matter that they may have been dead for a century or more. Privacy laws, and the ways they are interpreted by the courts are such that we look elsewhere for information on these folks who were not a lucky as we are. Following is just a short teaser of a fairly extensive article.

Society generally has not been kind to those with mental illnesses or quirky personalities. Embarrassed by such relatives, their families of decades past often sent them to institutions and never talked about them again.

So how do genealogists find these individuals and restore them to their rightful place in the family history?

One approach is to search the files of the local probate court, which traditionally handles guardianships. This usually is the first stop for a family seeking to put someone in an institution.

Read the full article in the January 25, 2009 edition of Tampa Bay Online.

6 thoughts on “Finding Your Relatives Who Were in Mental Institutions”

  1. I have been searching for records on my grandfather Johan (John) Kaartinen who died in the mental institution in Cedro Wooley Washington. He came from Finland, landed in New York, Married Ida Tohmola/Tomlin who was born somewhere in Michigan. Family rumor has it that she was born in Kalamazoo michigan. Grandfather is said to have had a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized until he passed away in the 1930’s (his daughter said she was notified of his death.) If you can help with sites to search I would be grateful.

  2. Richard McLeod is in his 40’s (unknown middle name)last known where-about was somewhere in/near France but has since been Institutionalized (unknown Asylum) Richard/Ricky has a younger brother – Jason McLeod (unknown middle name) who i am also looking for. Their birth father’s name is Andrew Murdoch McLeod aged 60. Unfortunately that is all the information i have to look for them.

    If anyone can help me with my search or can find either of them it would be greatly appreciated.

    Kind Regards

    Half Sister

  3. I would like to introduce a bill in Washington DC to help the people who have been institutionalized and their family is trying to find them.

  4. I am working on my mothers ancestry. I reciently found out that her grandmother had been married once before and was married to my great grandfathers younger brother first. They had 7 children, but when they divorced, none of the children went to live with their parents. I found that Edith O. McAllister, born June 1908, according to the 1930 Duluth City Census, was a “lodger” at the State Institution, which under those words were “The Girls Club”. I am trying to find out what type of institution this was. I also read that back then more times than not, these women were sterilized. I am trying to find out what happened to her. IF she died there, was a patient. If you can help it would be great.

  5. I have been trying to find out information about my half brother, Anthony Ford. All I know is that he was in an institution in upstate New York. I have always been concerned about his welfare. Any information would be appreciated.

  6. A close relative was institutionalized on and off while I was growing up. How do I confirm this information if there is nothing to substantiate the gossip behind it? This happened between 1958 – 1968.

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