What’s avail­able on­line and in the ar­chives

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - FOCUS ON LUNATIC AYSLUM RECORDS -

Lo­cal Ar­chives

Most asy­lum records are held at lo­cal ar­chives. You can find out which one you’ll need to visit by check­ing the Hospi­tals Records Data­base ( na­tion­alarchives.­pi­tal­records); this will tell you whether any records sur­vive for the asy­lum you’re in­ter­ested in. Col­lec­tions usu­ally in­clude a va­ri­ety of doc­u­ments such as ad­mis­sion and dis­charge reg­is­ters; pa­tients’ case­books and case files; staff records; vis­it­ing com­mit­tee minute books; pho­to­graphs; an­nual re­ports and other ephemera. An­nual re­ports re­lat­ing to an in­di­vid­ual asy­lum of­ten de­scribe the types of treat­ment of­fered and whether there was any over­crowd­ing at the time your an­ces­tor was an in­mate. Look out for his­to­ries of the asy­lum that may have been com­piled by a lo­cal his­tory group.

The Na­tional Ar­chives

The Na­tional Ar­chives ( TNA) at Kew holds records for crim­i­nal lu­natics who were con­fined at Broad­moor and Beth­lem. Search the Dis­cov­ery cat­a­logue ( dis­cov­­tion­alarchives. for the record se­ries HO 8 Quar­terly Re­turns of Pris­on­ers (1862-1875); HO 20 Pris­ons Cor­re­spon­dence and Pa­pers (1820-1843); HO 144 Sup­ple­men­tary Pa­pers (1869-1941); and HO 145 Crim­i­nal Lu­nacy War­rant and En­try Books (1882-1921). Also held at TNA are the Ad­mis­sion Reg­is­ters for pub­lic and pau­per asy­lums kept by the Lu­nacy Com­mis­sion in se­ries MH 94 (1846-1960). They record the name and sex of the pa­tient; the name of the hos­pi­tal, asy­lum, or li­censed house; and the date of ad­mis­sion and dis­charge or death of each pa­tient. Th­ese reg­is­ters are use­ful if no other records ex­ist for the asy­lum that you’re in­ter­ested in.

Well­come Li­brary

More and more asy­lum records are ap­pear­ing on­line. The Well­come Li­brary has be­gun an am­bi­tious pro­ject to digi­tise some of its own men­tal health col­lec­tions and those of part­ner­ship ar­chives. The first three in­sti­tu­tions whose records are now freely avail­able on­line are Tice­hurst House Hos­pi­tal, East Sus­sex; The Re­treat, York; and Gart­navel Royal Hos­pi­tal (Glas­gow Lu­natic Asy­lum). Other asy­lum ar­chives that are to be digi­tised in­clude St Luke’s Hos­pi­tal, Lon­don; Crich­ton Royal Hos­pi­tal, Dum­fries & Gal­loway; and Cam­ber­well House Asy­lum, Sur­rey. Search the col­lec­tions at well­comeli­ col­lec­tions/dig­i­tal­col­lec­tions/men­tal­health­care.


Ances­try ( www.ances­try. has digi­tised some of TNAs’ early Crim­i­nal Lu­natic Asy­lum Reg­is­ters 1820-1843 ( HO 20), as well as the Crim­i­nal Lu­nacy War­rant and En­try Books 1882-1898 ( HO 145/1-9). Also on the Ances­try web­site are TNAs’ Lu­nacy Pa­tients Ad­mis­sion Reg­is­ters 1846-1912 ( MH 94/1- 47).


Find­my­past ( find­my­past. has pro­vided on­line ac­cess to the records of Beth­lem Hos­pi­tal from 1683-1932. This fas­ci­nat­ing col­lec­tion takes in a wide range of top­ics in­clud­ing the records of a would-be as­sas­sin of King Ge­orge III, a man who had over­taxed his brain by writ­ing a dic­tio­nary and a woman with an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for shop­ping. You can also view digi­tised doc­u­ments for South York­shire Asy­lum Ad­mis­sion Records (18721910) and Prest­wich Asy­lum Ad­mis­sions (1851-1901).

The Well­come Li­brary is digi­tis­ing some of its men­tal health col­lec­tions

TNA’s Dis­cov­ery cat­a­logue

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