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.