Mental Health Institution Records - Help Page

Why can’t I find my ancestor?/Help with searching

What institutions and years have been indexed?

What’s in the index?

What information is in the original record?

How can I see the original record?

Who holds the original records?

How can I find out more about the institution and whether it's own records have survived?

Why do you use offensive terms such as lunatic and asylum?

Can you give me more help?

Why can’t I find my ancestor?/Help with searching

A possible reason is that they are not in the index. It could be that we have not yet indexed the relevant year. Click here to see the current coverage of our online indexes.

It might be, however, that we do have what you are looking for. We have given a number of search boxes but you don’t have to fill them all in. Less is more. If there are no results try reducing the amount of information you give. You could try solely the surname or even just the first name.

Use wildcards: The wildcard * can represent any series of characters, and the wildcard ? can represent any single character.

Both can be used in any field. Let’s say your ancestor’s surname was Blyth. In Victorian records spellings were very inconsistent, and the surname may have appeared with our without a final ‘e’. To get around this, try a search of Blyth* and this will bring up all Blyths, with or without the final ‘e’.

Perhaps a first name is causing some difficulty, for the same reason. Helen, for example might be ‘Hellen’, ‘Helen’, ‘Ellen’, ‘Elen’, ‘Elinor’ or ‘Eleanor’. Searching for *el*n* will bring almost all variations of the name up.

What institutions and years have been indexed?

This record set includes admission to all Mental Health Institutions in Scotland but indexing them is a slow process. Click here to see the current coverage of our online indexes. Email us if you would like to volunteer to help index these records more quickly.

What’s in the index?

Name of individual or patient, age, occupation, place of previous abode, place found and examined, case number, year of admission, name of institution, next of kin (name, relationship and address).

What information is in the original record?

Click here to see an example transcription.

How can I see the original record?

For a research fee of £8, we will provide a copy of the documents in the ‘Notices of Admissions by the Superintendent of the Mental Institutions’ (NRS reference MC2) relating to the patient, and also find and provide a copy the corresponding entry in a corresponding volume which tells you additional information, including the date when the patient left the institution or died (NRS reference MC7).

Who holds the original records?

The National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh.

How can I find out more about the institution and whether it's own records have survived?

Click here to find further information on most Scottish mental health institutions, including the whereabourts of surviving records, if known.

Why do you use offensive terms such as lunatic and asylum?

It is a sad fact that even in the 21st century, all too few of us really understand mental health problems. Over the years, terms once used to categorise mental illness have become known as offensive terms, leading us to change the terminology we use to describe mental illness.

In the Victorian era, much less was known about mental health. While some did their best to care for sufferers, it is also true to say that many ill people were treated very badly indeed. We hope our research will be used in a positive way to understand mental health issues even more.

The only way to understand the past is to learn about it, to research it. This means that when we transcribe records we use the terminology used in the original record. We do not gloss over the truth of what happened in the past.

Can you give me more help?

If you have an obstacle in your family tree and you need some help, contact us directly, explain your problem and we will try to assist. Often with our experience and the resources we have to hand, it is possible to solve your problem in an hour or two. We will look at your problem for about half an hour with no obligation. We will then then tell you if we can solve the problem and how much it will cost you, and it will be up to you to decide if you would like to proceed.

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