Searching for clues
- Is the person (on the day of the enumerator’s visit) sick or temporarily disabled, so as to be unable to attend to ordinary business or duties? If so, what is the sickness or disability?
- deaf and dumb
- maimed, crippled, bedridden or otherwise disabled
Record at a Glance: 1880 Schedule of Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Classes
2. These numbers reference the page and line of the person’s listing on the 1880 population schedule.
3. The form of disease causing insanity (here, “mania”) or cause of idiocy (“fright”) is given.
4. You may find additional details about the infirmity, such as duration, age at onset, and whether the person has been institutionalized.
5. Enumerator instructions suggested census takers ask local physicians for names and addresses of locals fitting the definition of “idiot.”
Uncovering institutional records
Online institutional records are relatively few, but genealogy websites may have databases and images. In
Record at a Glance: Convict Ledger
2. A detailed physical description—including identifying marks—would help authorities identify the person in the future.
3. The custodial archive may provide help understanding the record. The Texas State Library and Archive Commission lists common abbreviations in convict registers.
4. The date of conviction and county of residence can help you find trial records.
Poorhouses: Depending on the time and place, an institution for the poor can be called an almshouse, poorhouse, poor farm or house of refuge. Elderly residents might be placed in an old age, veterans’ or soldiers’ home.
- Earliest Institutions: The first almshouse in America opened in Philadelphia in 1728. The first orphanage opened in 1729 in New Orleans. The earliest state hospital, Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Va., opened in 1773. The federal prison system was established in 1891.
- Where records are kept: If the institution is still in operation, check there for records. If not search online for information and contact repositories of the entity with jurisdiction over the institution. Also check the FHL catalog, government archives, historical societies, university and local public libraries and genealogy websites.
- Search terms: The city, county, and state plus the name of the institution and/or words such as history, asylum, orphanage, poorhouse, etc.
- How to find in the FamilySearch catalog: Run a place search and look under the subject headings Archives and Libraries; Correctional institutions; Court Records; Guardianship; Medical Records; Military Records; Orphans and Orphanages; Probate Records; Schools
- Alternate and substitute records: Probate or surrogate’s court records, court minutes, census, death records, newspapers, military records (for crimes while enlisted)
- Asylum Projects
- Cyndi’s List: See categories for Medical & Medicine; Orphans; Poorhouses & Poverty; Prisons, Prisoners & Outlaws; and your localities of interest.
- Early Psychiatric Asylums
- Federal Bureau of Prisons
- National Orphan Train Complex
- Old Soldiers Home
- Orphan and Orphanage Records
- Poorhouse Story
- Texas Prison Museum
- Tuberculosis Sanitariums
- Western State Hospital (Wash.) Historic Patient Cemetery
Publications and Resources
- Annie’s Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg (Hachette)
- The Campaign Against Tuberculosis in the United States, Including A Directory of Institutions Dealing with Tuberculosis in the United States and Canada by Philip P. Jacobs (Charities Publication Committee)
- “The ‘Forgotten’ Census of 1880: Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes” by Ruth Land Hatten (March 1992 National Genealogical Society Quarterly)
- Forgotten Ellis Island: The Extraordinary Story of America’s Immigrant Hospital by Lorie Conway (Smithsonian)
- Living in the Shadow of Death: Tuberculosis and the Social Experience of Illness in American History by Sheila Rothman (Basic Books)
- “Mania and Nancy Bane: Identifying the Family of Nancy (Donnally) Bane, Inmate at the Central Ohio Lunatic Asylum and the Athens Insane Asylum,” by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Jan-Apr 2004 The American Genealogist)
- Women of the Asylum: Voices from Behind the Walls, 1840-1945 by Jeffrey Geller and Maxine Harris (Anchor Books)
a. family stories
c. probate records
d. all of the above
2. If you’re looking for institutional records and do a place search of the FamilySearch catalog, which of these subject headings would you look under?
b. tax records
c. archives and libraries
3. Other names for poorhouses were:
b. poor farm
c. house of refuge
d. all of the above
Exercise A: Go to Ancestry.com and search the 1850 census for David Molay in Auburn Prison, Cayuga County, NY.
1. What was David’s crime?
2. Where was David born?
3. What was David’s occupation?
4. Where would you look next for more information on his crime?
5. Write a citation for this record.
Exercise B: Review death records of your ancestors and their siblings to see if any died from tuberculosis. Then look for The Campaign Against Tuberculosis in the United States, Including A Directory of Institutions Dealing with Tuberculosis in the United States and Canada in Google Books. Review the institutions in your ancestor’s state. List possible institutions to check for records. (Keep in mind that people might travel to out-of-state institutions for treatment.)
Exercise C: Review the 1880 census for all of your ancestors who were recorded then. Look carefully at the columns with questions regarding health. Did you overlook any hash marks in those columns for someone?
Locations of 1880 DDD schedules
Researching indentured servants
Researching an ancestral murder
Using Probate Records on-demand webinar
Criminal records research guides
Find Your Ancestors in Free Newspapers Online video class