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Geneageek: A Lunatic in the Family

Sunday, 18 October 2009

A Lunatic in the Family

A lot of us joke about having families full of them but occasionally you come across things that remind you how serious it can be.

For a while now I've known about my lunatic ancestor (one of them!) but today I've actually decided to try to find out more.

Agnes BUCHAN was born in Aberdeenshire in 1807. Agnes married Arthur BUCHAN (there were a LOT of Buchans in the area), a fisherman, about 1830 and lived in the small fishing community of Lonmay with her family until Arthur died in 1888. It was sometime after this that Agnes was admitted into the Royal Lunatic Asylum in Aberdeen. She appears there in the 1891 census living at Elmhill house (part of the asylum/hospital).

The new Elmhill House featured in The Illustrated London News in 1863

source: UrbexForums

In 1893, Agnes died at the asylum of senile decay. This seems like quite a broad term and would like to know the extent of her 'lunacy' and what the conditions may have been like for her. I searched SCAN (Scottish Archive Network) to find what kind of hospital records might be available and have sent an email to the archivist. Hopefully, I'll be able to learn more about my troubled ancestor.

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Blogger The Professional Descendant said...


You should try the 'General Register of Lunatics in Asylum' held at The National Archives of Scotland in MC7. This covers all of Scotland and tells you name, date of admission, which asylum, date of death or discharge and patient number. With the patient number and date of admission you can then look at MC2 'Notices of Admissions by the Superintendent of the Mental Institutions' which will include a report by the admitting physician with details such as mental and physical health, age, marital status, previous place of abode, nearest relative and whether any other member of the family had been insane.

I have used these records to learn more about someone recorded in an asylum on the census when hospital records did not survive and was surprised by the great amount of detail, including the fact that this was not their first time in an asylum.

There are more details of these records in the NAS Catalogue and in 'Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors - The Official Guide'.

To find hospital records you can use the Hospital Records Database at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/hospitalrecords/ which includes Scotland.

Hope that helps and you will learn more about your ancestor. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss these records any further.


25 October 2009 at 11:28  

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