Monday, October 12, 2009

Methodology Monday with institutionalized ancestors

For some background in the down-and-up-and-down-again history of mental health, check out The Discovery of the Asylum by David J. Rothman, or the book and article blogged here a while back. For some first steps in researching your institutionalized ancestors, check out Gena Philibert Ortega's note in the October 8 issue of the GenealogyWise newsletter (the link is to the archives but that issue isn't up yet).

The gist: don't limit yourself to what the institution or its successor has to offer: "In the case of my great-great grandmother," Ortega writes "who was institutionalized in her latter years, her admission record from the Oregon State Hospital was available from the state archives. This gave me some info about when she entered the facility and why." Court records may also be public where the institutional records themselves may be lost, destroyed, or restricted.

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