18 January 2009

Mentally Ill Folks Harder To Research

Mentally Ill Folks Harder To Research

By Sharon Tate Moody, Tampa Tribune Coorespondent, 18 January 2009

I think Sharon was lucky to find the information she did about someone who was institutionalized. This has come up more than once in my own research and quite often seems to be a dead end--so many records for asylums are not available or extant. But you can never assume there is no information; often, as happened to Sharon, researchers are able to find some records on an "insane" person.

Also it helps to remember that the meaning of "insane" was different before modern times. A person who was committed until the middle of the 20th century could be retarded or have Alzheimers or post-partum depression, or be an alcoholic . . . or like my own great-grandfather, have pellegra, which often results in its victims having delusions. I also get the impression that someone, especially a female, who just didn't "act right" (according to her family or husband) might be labeled "insane."

So, as Sharon writes, these people are harder to research, not impossible.