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May 1, 2019

Was Great-Great-Grandma Crazy?

Insane Asylum Records
My second great-grandmother Georgiana Golding was institutionalized in an Insane Asylum in Kent England in 1864, released after 6 months, and sent back in 1868. But was she really crazy?

There were many female complaints that were mis-diagnosed back then. She was only 24 in 1864 so it wasn't menopausal symptoms. But a scrutiny of the family reveals that Georgiana had just had her third child a few months before being admitted. Post-partum depression comes to mind. Three children ages newborn, 3 and 5 years old might just do it.

In 1868 she was admitted shortly after her 6th child was born. She was 28 years old and her six children were aged newborn to 9 years old. I truly  believe the poor woman was worn out and depressed. After another 6 month stay Georgiana was released.

I did not find her in any other Asylum records but in 1882 at the age of 42 Georgiana died in childbirth. It was her 11th child.

If you haven't checked Asylum records for your ancestor, especially your female ancestor, you should. Below is a link to some online Insane Asylum Records.

Insane Asylum Records


WizenedWizard said...

A fellow researcher, after hearing that one of my ancestors was hanged for witchcraft, commented that was a convenient way of getting rid of someone in those days - to later be replaced by putting them in an assylum, and more recently (in the U.S.) in prison.

Kiwigirl said...

I wonder for what other reasons would a man be put in an asylum in the 1880s then released a year later...

J Hansen said...

I discovered my great-grandmother's unmarried half-sister Lizzie in the Georgia state hospital (asylum) in the 1930 census. I then located her there in 1910 and 1920 as well.
I wrote to the asylum's descendant institution and they sent me a photocopy of her complete "file" which consisted of a few words on each side of a 3x5 index card (I'm not sure they'd be allowed to give out that information now). She was admitted in 1905. Her diagnosis was given as "female hysteria" which seems to have been a catch-all term for a lot of issues. Given her age of 55 at admission, I surmised symptoms of menopause.
More recently, I tracked down her commitment records on FamilySearch in the volume "Court of Ordinary Lunacy Records," kept by her home county's courthouse. The person filing the petition was her brother-in-law in whose house she lived. Her 3 "nearest adult relatives" were to be given 10 days notice of the hearing (Could they be female? They were not named). 18 men (including 3 M.D.s) were listed as jurors (I recognize some of the names as relatives-- small town). The diagnosis in the courthouse record was "periodic insanity." According to a medical dictionary that was the term at the time for manic depression or bipolar disorder.
She spent the last 30 years of her life in the state hospital, dying there in 1935, age 85.
I find her case very sad. This was a family that was devoted to its members and told stories for generations. She died when my mother and her siblings were teenagers and yet they apparently didn't know her story (they were born after she was committed). An older cousin told me he had talked to a great-aunt who had been a small child when Lizzie was still living in the family home. She had a very vague memory of the adults keeping a watchful eye when Lizzie was around the children.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Lizzie's story is incredibly sad! I am so glad you took the time to find details to let her story be known. At least she was not discarded and forgotten.

We have a similar sad story in my husband's family. I wrote about it at Ada Woman of Courage it's the story of Ada Massey, my husband's grandfather's sister. She was committed to an insane asylum in 1919 and died there two weeks later at the age of 28. Her story was very secret, no one in the family would talk about it or knew what had happened, so I set out to get the hospital notes.

On reading them it seemed to me she was just a very high-spirited independent thinker! I would not be surprised if she was a lesbian who had to hide her true self. We have photos of her in men's clothing. Such a sad sad time for women

Genbook said...

We had a ggf who was an alcoholic. He was committed in 1866 and died institutionalized in 1900.