|Richard and David, with Amanda behind the camera.|
From the many conversations I had on Saturday it is clear that family historians are beginning to realise that asylum records may provide the answers to some of their brick walls or missing people.
Ancestry have recently published the records of the Commissioners in Lunacy which should show all patient admissions across all asylums in the UK after January 1846 so one might expect to find a lunatic ancestor within that database. Have a look at my Early Asylum Life blog post Searching for Early Asylum Ancestors for comments on my experience of searching for patients using Ancestry which was actually much better than I had expected.
|1841 Census for West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum. Courtesy Ancestry.|
Consider the census which is one of the key resources used by family historians. The 1841 census return for the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum is much as one would expect for any other institution. It records all the staff, some living with their families, and all the patients are named in full.
|1851 Census for West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum. Courtesy Ancestry.|
Thereafter, from 1851 to 1901, while staff and their families are named, the patients are only identified by their initials. This might look like an early form of data protection but I suspect it had more to do with reducing the clerical effort. Not all asylums adopted the practice of using just the patients' initials.
In 1911 full names of patients are again recorded leaving a gap of 60 years during which a Yorkshire ancestor may well have disappeared into the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum. More about how to search for your ancestors another day.