Monday, 10 April 2017

Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots

Murray Asylum Perth group of  male Patients 1860
John Burt is a Scottish Genealogy Network member and we are very pleased to see the release of his new book: Lunatics, Imbeciles and Idiots: A History of Insanity in Nineteenth-Century Britain and Ireland.

The book provides details of the development and expansion of 19C asylums, with analysis of how they were established, run, and what they were like to live and work in.

This handy guide explores what asylum records are available and how to use them so that you can truly understand the lives your ancestors led. John's medical background gives this book a unique perspective.

Staff outing from the Montrose  Royal Asylum 
Many people who were admitted to a lunatic asylum were paupers, that is the treatment was paid for by their Parochial Board of Settlement. To get a really rounded out picture of your ancestor's life you can also trace their poor law application which would likely have been made around the same time.

Records like these help us learn more than dry facts, they help us get to know our ancestors and find out how they lived.

The book is available from amazon.co.uk in hardcover and digital formats.

Curling at Royal Edinburgh  Asylum





Friday, 17 February 2017

Under the Knife

A Visit to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

Scattered through the archives of Scotland are documents and memories that our ancestors left behind. When we start tracing our family tree we begin with birth, marriage, death and census records but then we need more! We need to look at a variety of records to really find out what our ancestors were like, what they did and how they lived.

The Scottish Genealogy Network (SGN) encourages its members to keep learning, keep advancing as genealogists so that they can provide a higher standard of service to their clients. Today around 20 SGN members met at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG) to tour the building and delve into their collections.

It may be an historic building but
in front of their ancient portraits
they are teaching the physicians
of tomorrow!
The RCPSG has existed as an institution for over 400 years! It is little wonder then that the records they hold are extensive and unique. As a forward-looking organisation they are also working to make some of their valuable material available online (for free) and their library is open to the public. If you are planning to visit, it is wise to contact them beforehand so that they can ensure everything you would like to consult is available.

Our visit began with a tour of the prestigious building. The first room we were shown was the David Livingstone Room. In that room there is a cast of one of the Doctor’s bones! As we moved through the college, hanging on the walls are portraits of presidents past as well as other notable physicians and surgeons. You may wonder then, with all these illustrious individuals so obviously connected to the college, is there any reason for me to visit? Yes, there is!

The Crush Hall
There are three main reasons a genealogist (amateur or professional) should visit the college. Firstly, you may want to research one of the past members. The records they hold on past members will help with your research. The photographs show some examples of what the college holds. The second reason is that not only does the college hold records of those treating the ill but also they hold some records of those being treated! Amongst the records, for example, is a “Register of Inoculations, Glasgow 1832-1854”, if your family was living in Glasgow they may well appear in the records. The third reason is this, even if there is no direct reference to your ancestor it is good to build up your knowledge of social history. Understanding our ancestors means imagining the circumstances in which they lived so that we can research their lives and walk in their footsteps.




The Lock Room - Named after the Lock Hospital 



Visit our Facebook page to see more photos


If you cannot visit in person, take advantage of their online collections which are free to access. If you find an entry which relates to your family come and tell us about it on our Facebook page.

By Emma Maxwell

Genealogist at Scottish Indexes