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The Practical Archivist
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Finding Your Ancestor in State Hospital Records
Posted by Diane
My grandmother died at the Cleveland State Hospital during the Flu Epidemic of 1918 after staying there two months. I’ve learned the hospital was torn down, but I could never find out where the records went. How can I get them?
We received this question in response to a
Family Tree Magazine
E-mail Update newsletter editorial
about my search for my great-grandmother’s Cleveland (Ohio) State Hospital records. I’d learned from her death certificate that she died there.
To learn the whereabouts of the hospital records, I first did a
“Cleveland State Hospital”
learned some history
. The hospital was once called the Newburgh Asylum and was demolished in 1977.
The Google search also led me to a
Web page from the Case Western Reserve University archives
, which referred me to the
Ohio Historical Society
for patient records. That made sense: Records of a state institution would probably be in that state's archives.
I searched the
Ohio Historical Society library catalog
and found (after experimenting with various search terms) entries for patient admission and discharge books. The catalog listing labels these hospital records “restricted” and instructs you to call the archives for more information.
The public can’t access these records because patients named in them may have passed medical conditions to their descendants, who may be living. Instead, I submitted a research request and a $25 fee. A few weeks later, I received a transcription and photocopies of my ancestor’s entries in admission and discharge registers (the archivist had obscured other patients’ names in the photocopy).
A reader e-mailed us a suggestion to examine county court records, too, for documents related to commitment hearings. She’d obtained her great-uncle’s “Inquest of Lunacy 1884, the full medical certificate of the doctor's exam and the application of admission by the probate judge.” Write the court clerk or see if the
Family History Library
has microfilmed the records, in which case you'd be able to borrow them for a fee through a branch Family History Center.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007 1:07:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Saturday, December 15, 2007 8:01:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I am the person that had asked you how to go about finding the records of my grandmother. I did exactly what you have said to do and received the same Admission and Discharge with a lot deleted. I also got with the probate judge who told me that he was not allowed to give out any information on whether my grandmother had been committed to Cleveland State Hospital by a judge so it seems my searching for any more information has reached a end unless there is someone out there who can tell me where else I could search for this? I do know that there has to be more info than what was on the papers I received from the Archives which really told me absolutely nothing only that she was a patient in Cleveland State, admitted and died two months later and that is all. Twenty-five dollars seems like a lot of money for deleted pages. I know she died from Pneumonia, nothing about why she was admitted, how they were helping her, what they were doing for her or anything else. She was only 26 when she died, her husband vanished, and she had three little babies that went to orphanage. Any suggestions would really be helpful.
Thank you for helping me to find what I did from Cleveland State Hospital.
Sunday, January 06, 2008 3:15:43 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
I had similar experiences at the Ohio Historical Society, researching my wife's birth at Cleveland State Hospital in March 1936. Her mother (Dorothy L. WALKEM) was a patient until her demise of typhoid fever on Nov. 1st. 1936.
In Cleveland, the practice of transfering psychopathic patients from the the City Hospital (Psychopathic Building) to Cleveland State Hospital was common. There is such a volume for Jan '34-Oct. '37 in the Cuya. County Archives (400 pp.)
Ref: Municipal Archives of Ohio/City of Cleveland vol. VII(7) - Cuyahoga County #18 - Dept. of Health and Welfare #6246 (p. 306)
"Inquest of Lunacy -Order of Committment" from the Probate Court are also invaluable docs.
Michel S. Perdreau
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