Historical mental health records online

Further to my previous post about James Doran, who died in Prestwich County asylum in 1870, I realised that a list of admissions to Prestwich Asylum 1851-1901 are available on findmypast.co.uk (free to search but you need to pay to see the result). Sure enough, James Doran is there (Archive reference: QAM6/6/8; Patient number: 2588), aged 52, a married solicitor’s clerk, admitted to the asylum on 7th June 1870 and died on 8th June 1870. His religion is Church of England. Unfortunately, these are transcripts rather than original records, but armed with the reference number and patient number, the original records can be pursued at either the Greater Manchester County Record Office or Lancashire Record Office in Preston.

This prompted me to do a quick review of what other records are now available online:

Findmypast.co.uk (£):

  • Prestwich Asylum Admissions 1851-1901
  • Kent, Bexley Asylum Minute Books, 1901-1939
  • South Yorkshire Asylum, Admission Records (1872-1910)

Ancestry.co.uk (£):

  • UK, Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, 1846-1912 (registers of public and private asylums)
  • Criminal Lunacy Warrant and Entry Books, 1882-1898 (entries of warrants for removal from prison to asylums)
  • Criminal Lunatic Asylum Registers, 1820-1843
    • Bethlem Hospital, Criminal Lunatics (1823 – 1843)
    • Criminal Lunatics, Confined in County and Licenced Lunatic Asylums (1800 – 1839)

History of Medicine at the University of East Anglia

It turned out that James Doran was also in the Ancestry.co.uk lunacy patient admission registers. Whilst an impressive resource, it doesn’t give any other extra information, just his date of admission to Prestwich Asylum, and the fact that he died there, but it does confirm that he was a “pauper” admission.

Workhouse, poor law and prison records may also be relevant and worth exploring. The National Archives has a helpful guide to searching for asylum inmates, but does not seem to have digitised these records yet (apart from those available via Ancestry.co.uk). Of course, if you happen to live near Kew, you could go and examine them in person. There is another helpful guide about mental health records more generally.

A quick google search found a list of sites related to hospitals, including mental health asylums on Cyndi’s List, but many of these are in the USA. There are also some mental health records for Victoria, Australia freely available online.

I’m sure there are plenty of other hidden gems out there, I would love to hear if anybody knows of any.


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Filed under Mental health institutions, Records

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