by Heather Stovold
I had my first clue that Mental Health Records could be helpful when the Registration of my GG-Grandfather was made by the Minto Asylum. My GG-Grandfather had also been enumerated twice in the 1881 census, once at home with his family, and once in the Hamilton Asylum.
Doing a search in Google, I discovered a few websites about each Asylum, including pictures of the Asylum, and some general descriptions of the type of life led by the inmates. I discovered that my GG-Father had probably helped build the Minto Asylum, as he died there during the first years it was open.
Imagine my delight, when Google brought up a big article in the Ontario Archives on Psychiatric Records!
I then sent an information request form to the Ontario Archives with the information I had on the 2 dates that my GG-Father would have been in the 2 Asylums, with a request for any information available for those, and any other, stays.
What a mother lode of information! Although I didn't get any vital information I didn't already have, I found out that his sister (that I didn't know existed) had also been an inmate of an asylum - and it included her married name. I also got very descriptive information on his behaviour at the asylum from the patient casebook, including such tidbits as an escape during one of his commitments, that at least a few times he had been sent to the asylum from the Jail, that he was considered a dangerous lunatic. He appeared to spend a lot of time in his bed despondent, had periods of useful work, and at other times was very disruptive and abusive to the staff.
I have since gotten further back in my genealogy from researching the information I had gotten about his sister!
I definitely recommend using mental health records if you have reason to believe that an ancestor had ever been in an asylum!