Wednesday, May 21, 2014

52 Ancestors #21: Catherine Moynahan "Of Unsound Mind"

This post is Part I of an in-depth study of two ancestors sent to asylums in southwestern Ontario in the late 1800s.

This is difficult and painstaking work. Difficult firstly because records are difficult to locate and navigate. The records that I am currently exploring include the Essex Gaol,  Malden Lunatic Asylum and London Lunatic Asylum records. Secondly this research is challenging because mental health in the 1800s is challenging to read and understand.

The London Lunatic Asylum around 1875 (the Asylum opened in 1870)

Insane Persons Under Asylum Treatment

The figures show that in Ontario there was one Insane person under asylum treatment for every 1044 of the population, taking the census returns of 1871 as a basis. According to returns elsewhere at the same time England had one under treatment to every 615 of her population ; Scotland, one to every 606 ; and Ireland, one to every 729.

The interesting chart below shows the numbers of the so-called "defective class" in Ontario based on the census results from 1842, 1848, 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1881. Notable is the spike in 1871.

Catherine Moynahan: A Review of the Facts

Fact 1: 1871 Census: In the 1871 census Catherine Moynahan (wife of Denis Moynahan) is marked Column 22. Infirmities: unsound mindCatherine is 58 in 1871 (estimated birth date 1813)

Fact 2: Asylum Record: We also know when she was admitted into the asylum with thanks to . I learned of Catherine Moynahan while reading pages on the Malden asylum database. I ordered the source document (for a fee) and learned the following:

This is all that I have (so far)
for Catherine Moynahan (who I believe is my GGG Grandmother)

Fact 3: Death Certificate: Catherine Moynahan died March 10, 1872 at the London Lunatic Asylum. She was 46 years old (born 1826? thus a thirteen year difference fro the 1871 census record). More on the stated cause of death (marasmus) later. I will come to learn that her Asylum Reg. No is 384. (See AO information below)

Fact 4: Cause of Death: I could not decipher the cause of death in the death certificate and was delighted that it was stated again in the document below (thanks to Inspector  J.W. Langmuir ). She died from "Marasmus",  a severe form of malnutrition. Marasmus comes from the Greek word marasmos ("decay").

The Annual Report of the Inspector of Asylums, Prisons, and Public Charities, Volume 5, Part 1872 (Google eBook)  was incredibly valuable to my research. J.W. Langmuir was meticulous in his reporting. His report is dated for the year ending 30th of September 1872 (Catherine had died March 1872). Some interesting facts from the report:
  • J.W. Langmuir  made 4 visits to the London Asylum in the year: On January 10 and 11, 1872. (on his October visit, he personally saw and examined every patient in the Asylum).
  • There were 487 patients in residence, of which 221 were men and 266 women.
  • The female patients were generally clean and neat in their personal appearance and were comfortably clothed
  • Nine female patients, who were destructive in their habits, had on the canvas clothing.
  • With the exception of a few very noisy and unruly patients in the female refractory ward all the rest were very quiet and orderly.
  • The filthy condition in which patients are sometimes sent to Asylums from county gaols was . illustrated in the case of a patient who had just been received. The matter was brought to the notice of the Government, in order that the neglect should be brought to the notice of the local authorities.

Future Research

Casebooks, London Psychiatric Hospital, 1877-1885 
London Psychiatric Hospital patients’ clinical casebooks
Reference Code: RG 10-279 Archives of Ontario 

The Archives of Ontario explains the record keeping process fo psychiatric hospitals:

"Early patient records were transcribed by hand into large bound volumes called casebooks. Each patient was assigned a new page in the casebook, in order of admittance. Notes about the patient’s subsequent history were added to the page, which was cross-referenced to a second later page if additional space was needed. "

Records relating to the London Psychiatric Hospital 
  • RG 10-279 London Psychiatric Hospital patients' clinical casebooks 1867-1906
  • RG 10-280 London Psychiatric Hospital patients' clinical case files
  • RG 10-281 London Psychiatric Hospital patient registers 1870-1957 
  • RG 10-282 Records of the Medical Superintendent of the London Psychiatric Hospital (1871-1970)(note:  warrants for commitment or transfer of patients, registers of patients' outgoing correspondence, registers of hospital instructions and orders, conference books, physician day books, etc.)
  • RG 10-283 Records of the Bursar of the London Psychiatric Hospital 1865-1923 
  • RG 10-279 Clinical Casebooks Finding aid
Records relating to the Malden Lunatic Asylum

Note: The Malden Lunatic Asylum closed in 1870, and everything was transferred to the London Psychiatric Hospital.
  • RG 10-283 Records of the Bursar of London Psychiatric Hospital has references to Malden
  • RG 10-20-C-4-5 Day Book and Journal, Malden Lunatic Asylum 1 Jul 1865-  31 Oct 1868 (Reel 15)
  • MS856 in the AO reading room have:
  • RG 10-283 (Formerly RG 10-20-C-4-6  Day Book and Journal, Malden Lunatic Asylum 1 Nov 1868- 30 Dec 1870 (Reel 16)
Records relating to the Essex Gaol (jail) records:


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