Monday, January 4, 2010
Mental Health Facilities and the State Hospital Records
It didn’t take long to figure out that people don’t actually disappear into the abyss. Perhaps my research needed to be more thorough. Had I really researched all of my sources? Two commonly forgotten sources are prison records and mental health facility records.
Not everyone can boast that at any given time one, or more, ancestor was being treated in the State Hospital, but I usually exclaim that my family actually had a wing at the Kansas - Osawatomie State Hospital, also known as the “State Insane Asylum.” (This claim usually gets me off the hook from odd or peculiar behavior.)
I’ve always heard of poor Great-Aunt Hattie and her mental unrest, and I remember dear Grandma Maggie who died in the Larned State Hospital (KS), a psychiatric facility, but what about the others who can’t be accounted for using normal means?
There was the case of 3rd Great-Uncle Willis Cox and his daughter Freddie Reba (Cox) Looney. (I’m not making up that surname). They both disappeared about the same time. Last noted, Willis was living in the Coffeyville, Kansas area and Freddie Reba had left husband number two (Jake Looney) and was living in Washington County, Oklahoma, close to the Kansas border. Both Willis and daughter Freddie Reba dropped off the radar between 1910 - 1920.
By running a quick check with the state hospitals, both were found as patients in the Osawatomie State Hospital. Yes, coincidental (or disadvantaged gene pool), but they were both there.
The biggest issue was not in locating them, but trying to pull their medical records. Osawatomie will not share, or do not own, the patient’s files. However, as luck would have it, Willis Cox’s medical records from the State Hospital were complete with his Civil War Pension records. In the survey for family medical history, a bit of information from the attending physicians was also provided about Freddie Reba’s stay.
I suggest as you expand your research for that missing ancestor, you go a little mental!
Posted by Kathleen Brandt, Professional Genealogist at 11:02 PM