Reflections on 2018: Resolutions for 2019

Reflections on 2018

2018 was another busy year professionally (I am very grateful to all my 2018 clients) and I thoroughly enjoyed the Scottish Association of Family History Societies conference in Glenrothes, the Lanarkshire Local and Family History Show in Motherwell (where once again I volunteered on the ‘Ask an Expert’ stall) and the Scottish Local History Forum conference in Perth.  I enjoyed days out to Glasgow with the Scottish Local History Forum and to Perth and Kinross Archives, Dundee City and Council Archives and East Ayrshire Archives and Dick Institute museum in Kilmarnock all with the Scottish Genealogy Network.

However, the absolute highlight for 2018 for me was making a lot of use of 2 ‘new to me’ record sets, asylum records and poor law records.

The asylum project originally started because I noticed I had a quite a few ancestors who had died in asylums and I wanted to know why.  I started with 6 ancestors who had died in asylums and I am now looking at 9 ancestors who have been in asylums.  I have found exploring the asylum records in National Records of  Scotland, the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness, the North Lanarkshire Archive in Motherwell and the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archive based in the Mitchell Library both fascinating  and depressing.  The admission reasons and health issues of my ancestors in asylums have actually been very useful in helping me form a wider picture of their lives:  hormonal disease leading to exposing sexual organs, several occurrences of violence and threats of violence, delusions and hallucinations,  creeping along floors on all fours, being admitted to an asylum from a prison under a charge of malicious mischief and attempting to jump out of a tenement window 3 storeys up to escape personal demons.  I found the medical certificates and case notes especially informative.  However, I was really quite disappointed that no records appear to have survived for a private asylum which is actually still in existence as a care home.


[In North Lanarkshire Archives in Motherwell I found an outline of my great, great grandfather’s hand (in black) surviving in his case notes from his stay in Hartwood Asylum]

I also attended a poor law workshop at Strathclyde University in 2018 and was then inspired to start working with the Glasgow poor law records held at Glasgow City Archives in the Mitchell Library.  Again, what amazing, depressing information.  Highlights for me were the shock of finding my grandfather in the poor law records (his father was unemployed therefore claiming prior to emigration), a claim for an ambulance for my great, great grandfather who was days from death and an ancestor, for whom I have a very elegant photograph, being described as an alcoholic by her family.  I’m intending starting working with the poor law records held in Paisley in 2019 – see below.

My initial exploration of court records and fishing records held at the National Records of Scotland also started in 2018.  The court records for my family were fascinating witness statements, at this moment I need to work out how to go forward with court records.  I intend re-visiting fishing records in 2019 as part of a long term project – see below.

So many brick-walls have been smashed this year by me using DNA research.  I built a spreadsheet-based chromosome browser in 2018 and I have found it fascinating being in contact with so many lovely cousins who share DNA with me and I find it quite a thought that I can now match up actual segments of my DNA to specific ancestors.

New Year’s Resolutions for 2019

I’ve been the owner/manager of 2 One Place Studies projects (also known as local history projects) for several years now.  One is researching the 18th century weaving village of Cairneyhill, Fife where I grew up and the other is the village of Shandon near Helensburgh which was populated by wealthy Glasgow merchants (plus my family, 2 generations of whom had holiday homes there).  I’ve been continually collecting data, stories and photos for both villages over the past several years.  My aim for 2019 is to formally build and launch new websites for my One Place Studies.

As I said above, I’ve been enthralled by the poor law records in the Mitchell Library for most of 2018.  The poor law records for the Paisley area have also survived with an online index where I have spotted many of my great-grandfather’s family who emigrated from Buncrana, Co Donegal to Johnstone. I am looking forward to visiting Paisley Heritage Centre in 2019 to explore their poor law records.  My Armour family are a true mystery – not only are they one of my Irish brick walls (see below for my upcoming visit to the archives in Belfast), they were a relatively impoverished family, my great grandfather’s mother was admitted to an asylum as a pauper, but they also donated a large stained glass window to St Margaret’s church in Johnstone.  That to me is a contradiction yet to be resolved ….

My major aim, because I believe there is a gap in the market, is to launch an online database on the fishing boats of the Moray Firth coastal communities.  Ideally, my database will contain the physical details of the boat, who built it, the details of the owner, a picture of the boat and any relevant newspaper articles.  I’m already collecting much information on this subject and hope to, in 2019, start formally recording the fishing boat information that is held in the National Records of Scotland and also build and launch a website for this project.  Learning how to put a database online is another aim but that may take some study ….


[One of my family’s fishing boats]

As I may have mentioned above (!), I discovered many asylum records for my ancestors in 2018.  I will keep going with this project, but I now want to find out much more about the conditions in the asylums.  I know from my ancestors’ medical records that they did get happier and more stable in the asylums.  I gather from speaking to archivists and fellow professional genealogists that I need to consult official lunatic asylum reports which I aim to seek out in 2019.

One major family history website I have unfortunately not kept up to date with is Family Search.  This website is ran by the Church of Latter Day Saints (aka the Mormons) as a result of their wish to baptise all of their ancestors into their church and so they have a big interest in family history.  Strathclyde University held a workshop on the Family Search website last summer which unfortunately I was unable to attend.  I am hopeful that Strathclyde will repeat this workshop on the Summer of 2019 ….

And finally, I am so excited about my first ever visit to Belfast in hopefully May 2019.  I do love Ireland, I try to visit every 2nd year and it just always feels like a second home to me as I am 25% Irish.  One of my focuses in Belfast will be to visit the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).  At the moment I think my main aim there will be to hopefully demolish 2 of my Irish brick walls.  The first concerns my great grandfather William Armour who was born in Buncrana, County Donegal in 1866 – I have been unable to trace the family for definite before that date and I would love to know where they came from (at the moment I’m unsure whether there will be much for County Donegal in PRONI as County Donegal is right on the modern border between Northern Ireland and the Republic).  The second concerns my great, great grandfather Michael Cadden from County Fermanagh who I have traced from around 1845 when he was born to when I last ‘saw’ him in 1911.  Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find his death yet either in Ireland or Scotland.

Euphemia and William

[On the right is my great grandfather William Armour who was born in Buncrana, County Donegal in 1866 but where were the Armour family prior to 1866?]

I’ll look forward to reporting back to you in a year’s time regarding which of my aims I’ve achieved in 2019!



Remembrance Day 2018

This Remembrance Day, and especially on the centenary of the end of World War 1, I want to remember my 69 ancestors who died in service for their countries during both World Wars:

Private William Flett, 1868-1914, Royal Marine

Private Alexander Hunter, 1887-1914, Seaforth Highlanders

Private John Craig, 1897-1915 (Gallipoli), Royal Munster Fusiliers

Skipper James Garden, 1877-1915, Royal Naval Reserve

Second Hand John Garden, 1882-1915, Royal Naval Reserve

James McCauley, 1892-1915 (Gallipoli), Australian Imperial Force

James McCauley:

James John McAuley

Sergeant Samuel McGregor, 1882-1915, Royal Scots

Private Samuel McKail, 1892-1915 (Ypres), Royal Scots

Private William Stephen, 1893-1915, Seaforth Highlanders (2 of William’s brothers, James and Alexander, also lost their lives during World War 1)

William, James and Alexander Stephen:

Stephen family

Lieutenant James Urquhart, 1890-1915 (Loos), Northamptonshire Regiment

Engineman James Wood, 1895-1915, Royal Naval Reserve

Private James Wood, 1896-1915 (Somme), Seaforth Highlanders

Private William Barr, 1896-1916 (Somme), Highland Light Infantry

Private Alexander Doull, 1885-1916 (Somme), Seaforth Highlanders

Private John Gault, 1896-1916, Seaforth Highlanders

Private Alexander Mann, 1890-1916 (Somme), Canadian Expeditionary Force

Private Robert Miller, 1889-1916 (Somme), Canadian Expeditionary Force

Robert Miller:

Robert Miller

Petty Officer James Noble, 1878-1916, Royal Naval Reserve

Lance Corporal John Stephen, 1894-1916 (Iraq), Seaforth Highlanders

Private James Steven, 1894-1916 (Somme), Seaforth Highlanders

Sergeant John Stewart, 1894-1916 (Somme), Seaforth Highlanders

Private Thomas Wood, 1895-1916, King’s Own Scottish Borderers

Skipper William Wood, 1881-1916, Royal Naval Reserve

Rifleman David Bain, 1895-1917, King’s Own Rifle Corps

Trimmer James Bowie, 1896-1917, Royal Naval Reserve (died at same time as his brother John)

John and James Bowie:

John and James Bowie

Engineman John Bowie, 1887-1917, Royal Naval Reserve

Corporal John Campbell, 1882-1917 (Passchendaele), Canadian Expeditionary Force

Private William Cassie, 1897-1917 (Vimy Ridge), Canadian Expeditionary Force

William Cassie:

William Cassie

Private Andrew Creagh, 1897-1917, Australian Imperial Force

Andrew Creagh:

Andrew Creagh

Private George Donn, 1884-1917, The Royal Scots

Private David Findlay, 1887-1917 (Ypres), Australian Imperial Force

David Findlay:

David Findlay

Private John Hunter, 1889-1917, Australian Imperial Force

John Hunter:

John Hunter

Private George Main, 1893-1917 (Ypres), Seaforth Highlanders

Private John Mann, 1892-1917, Canadian Expeditionary Force

Rifleman David McIntosh, 1891-1917, New Zealand Expeditionary Force

Captain Gillies McKirdy, 1886-1917 (Somme), Bedfordshire Regiment

Private Alexander Stephen, 1888-1917 (Ypres), Machine Gun Corps

Sapper Alexander Walker, 1878-1917, Royal Engineers

Private Alexander Wood, 1885-1917 (Ypres), Gordon Highlanders

Able Seaman Alexander Wood, 1890-1917, Navy

Private Allan Campbell, 1897-1918, Labour Corps (Allan’s brother William died the same year in the Royal Engineers)

Private David Campbell, 1880-1918, South African Infantry

David Campbell:

David Campbell

Corporal William Campbell, 1891-1918 (Ypres), Royal Engineers

Lance Corporal Alexander Gault, 1897-1918, Seaforth Highlanders

Private Robert McIntosh, 1885-1918, New Zealand Expeditionary Force

Mate Joseph Murray, 1893-1918, Royal Naval Reserve

Skipper Peter Murray, 1870-1918, Royal Naval Reserve

Sergeant George West, 1893-1918 Lanarkshire Yeomanry

Lance Corporal John Bruce, 1908-1940 (Dunkirk), Royal Scots

John Bruce:

John Bruce

Second Hand John Cowie, 1904-1940, Royal Naval Reserve

Second Hand George Findlay, 1912-1940, Merchant Navy

Ordinary Seaman Douglas McLean, 1919-1940, Merchant Navy

Seaman Alexander Phimister, 1916-1940, Merchant Navy

Seaman Alexander Stewart, 1918-1940, Merchant Navy

Second Engineer Adam Findlay, 1896-1941, Merchant Navy

Chief Engineer John Findlay, 1910-1941, Merchant Navy

Seaman William Willox, 1918-1941, Merchant Navy

Wren Mary Cowie, 1920-1942, Women’s Royal Naval Service

Sapper George Cormack, 1894-1942 (Suez), South African Engineers Corps

Seaman Peter Cowie, 1917-1942, Merchant Navy

Skipper James Reid, 1912-1942, Royal Naval Reserve

Fusilier Benjamin Garden, 1889-1943, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

Benjamin Garden:

Benjamin Garden

Flying Officer Ian Menzies, 1920-1943, RAF

Captain George Murray, 1888-1943 (Red Cross hospital ship torpedoed), Australian Merchant Navy

Flying Officer Ronald West, 1919-1943, RAF

Flying Officer Alexander Cowie, 1916-1944, RAF

Alexander Cowie:

Alexander Cowie

Sergeant James Findlay, 1922-1944 (Normandy), Gordon Highlanders

Seaman William Mair, 1921-1945, Royal Naval Reserve

Private James Silver, 1924-1945, US Army

James Silver:

James Silver

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

Rest in peace my brave ancestors.



This blog post is to commemorate the life story of my maternal grandmother, Elizabeth May Cadden, who was born 100 years ago on 25th August 1918 at Crumlin Road in Belfast.

My grandmother was the daughter of Thomas Cadden and Maud Stevens who married in St Matthews Church, Belfast in February 1918.

There is a story to my grandmother’s conception. Thomas Cadden was from Co Fermanagh and Maud Stevens’ family had been living between Ballymoney, Co Antrim and Belfast. Maud’s mother (her father John had died in an asylum in 1905, see my previous blog post on John’s stay in Harthill asylum) had brought her family up as Church of Ireland and took in boarders in Belfast. Maud’s mother decided to take in the Catholic lodger Thomas Cadden who then got my great-grandmother pregnant with my grandmother. A household of mixed religion in Belfast was not a wise thing to do (and my mother has a theory that Thomas Cadden must have been a friend of the family or known to the family because Maud’s mother was a very sensible woman who would not have taken in a Catholic lodger into a Church of Ireland household in Belfast).

My grandmother was the eldest of 5 children.

This is my grandmother with her brother John:

Elizabeth Cadden and John Cadden late 1930s


The extended family stayed in Belfast and Ballymoney until my grandmother was aged 7 and then they all moved to Glasgow. There were 2 reasons for the move to Glasgow. My grandmother was ill and could not get appropriate medical treatment in Ireland but the whole family was in danger. To quote my great-grandmother, burning papers had been put through their letterbox in order to burn the house down because they were a mixed religion household.

When my grandmother moved to Glasgow, they lived in the Lambhill and Ruchill areas of Glasgow. My grandmother was too ill to go to school for the first year after she arrived in Glasgow, then she attended one year at primary school and subsequently attended Garnethill Convent School until the age of 14.   Her daughter Doreen was later to also attend Garnethill Convent School. My grandmother was the only person in her group to pass the intelligence test to enter Garnethill because she was the only one that could read a clock correctly in a mirror. At Garnethill my grandmother was to meet a lifelong friend, Margaret Masterton, who coincidentally was from the same town (Buncrana in Co Donegal) where my grandmother’s future father-in-law was from.

This is my grandmother (on the right) with Margaret Masterton:

Elizabeth Cadden and Margaret Masterton

My grandmother had to leave school at 14 due to family finances and was immediately employed in the cash-room at the Colosseum in Jamaica Street. Again, due to family finances, my grandmother had to go to work dressed in her school uniform. At the outbreak of war, my grandmother became a tailor’s assistant for a Mr Archibald and she made the RAF and Army uniforms for her brothers, future husband and future brothers-in-law. She was also a fire watcher during the War.

She met her husband-to-be, William Armour, at a St Andrews Ambulance dance at Glasgow University Union (the exact same building where her eldest daughter would meet her husband at a dance) and they married in January 1944 at St Agnes Church, Lambhill.

This is my grandparent’s wedding photo:

Elizabeth Cadden and William Armour


I now have the letters that my grandparents exchanged in the run up to their wedding as my grandfather was serving in the RAF in England right up until days before their wedding and my grandparents made all the wedding decisions by post. My grandmother was also extremely close to her grandmother, Maud’s mother Elizabeth Gamble, and I love the details in these wartime letters of how my grandmother enjoyed her grandmother’s company.

This is my grandmother with her grandmother, Elizabeth Gamble, and my grandmother’s great-aunt Sarah Gamble (right):

Elizabeth Cadden, Elizabeth Gamble and Sarah Gamble


After my grandparents married they initially lived in the Armour family tenement flat in Kelvinbridge until it was on the verge of being demolished by Glasgow Corporation and my grandparents then bought, with a great struggle, their family home in Broomhill where they were to live for the rest of their lives.

My grandmother didn’t work for a number of years whilst she brought up her daughters, Doreen, my mother, and Kathleen, who died 3 years ago.

This is my grandparents with my auntie Kathleen:

Elizabeth Cadden, William Armour and Kathleen Armour


When my grandmother started working again, she had many different jobs (in particular many manual jobs whilst her husband was ill and unable to work) until she settled in shop work in 2 famous Glasgow department stores.

My grandmother worked as a cleaner at the Western Infirmary, worked as a cleaner in the West End of Glasgow and then worked for a psychologist in the West End of Glasgow. My grandmother then joined the department store Frasers (in the current shop in Buchanan Street) in the china department and she subsequently worked for Gordon Brothers in Glassford Street in the china and crystal department in that department store. After my grandmother had retired from Gordon Brothers, she was held in such esteem that she was asked back to Frasers to work in their bathroom department.

After my grandmother eventually retired, she enjoyed spending time with her 4 grandchildren.

This is my grandmother, my mum, me and my cousins:

Elizabeth Cadden, my Mum, me and 2 of my cousins

My grandfather died in 1990 and my grandmother continued to live in the family home in Broomhill supported by her daughters until she broke her hip and never managed to walk again. She spent a final few months in the Nazareth House care home in Cardonald where her daughter Doreen had volunteered in the early 1970s when it was a children’s home.

Elizabeth Cadden died on 9 June 2006 aged 87 at the Southern General Hospital.





Health before and after asylum admission – part 3 of ‘Ancestors in the Asylums’

Hi all.

Since I last blogged, I have been researching my great, great grandfather, John Stevens, who was resident in Hartwood Asylum, at North Lanarkshire Archives in Motherwell.

What really struck me was the difference in John’s mental state before and after his admission to the asylum.  It’s almost as if John knew he was ill when he was living with his wife and then his mother but neither of them could cope and, when he was admitted to the asylum, he was looked after by people who knew how to help him.

As a reminder,  here are the descriptions of John’s health before he was admitted to the asylum:

He lies in bed and is dull and apathetic and refuses to rise. He says he was employed with Robinson and Charon in New York (he was employed with the firm in Belfast). He keeps on saying that ‘it is down’ constantly referring to his rupture [that is a hernia], he states it is not ruptured and that his testicles are down.

Patient’s mother states that he wanted a doctor, he put on a new tie for him, that he exposes himself indecently in the house and that he is sometimes afraid to sit down in case of breaking his testicle. James Stevens [his brother] states that patient blamed his mother for bringing down the rupture and was going to strike her and that he walks around the house with his trousers down.

He is considerably demented his memory is very poor.  He is also very irritable, his speech is quite incoherent and he cannot give a rational account of his doings.


James Stevens his brother says he is very depressed and that at times he becomes excited and violent. He is guilty of indecent exposure of his person.

I was pleased for John that, one month after his admission, his medical problems had been investigated and a diagnosis given:

29th March 1904

This patient has a dull heavy complexion. He is considerably demented and is childish and incoherent in his speech. His memory is greatly impaired. He has great enlargement of the nose and facial bones and very large hands. The appearance suggests acromegaly [a disorder that results from excess growth hormone].

I was fascinated by the fact that John’s doctors had compared the size of his hands and feet to that of a ‘normal’ person and the tracings of John’s hands and feet had actually survived for me, his great, great-grand-daughter, to touch and view (with John’s hand being the black outline):


I was interested to discover from John’s medical notes that he was still extremely ill in the asylum but he seemed a  lot more contented:

22nd July 1904

This patient is considerably demented. His expression is fatuous and silly. He is very childish and presents a very real picture of ‘second childhood’, both speech and conduct are infantile in nature. His memory is considerable impaired, both for present and remote events but specially for the former and it costs him an undue almost painful effort to recall many of the major incidents of his life such as his work, his marriage, his family etc which ought to be remembered with a minimum of effort and it is with displeasure that he receives any questions which have as their object the investigation of his life history and with relief that he returns to the happy life he leads now, free from all care and responsibility. Living in the present and for the present neither looking backwards nor forwards, no incidents became of an unpleasant nature and no schemes necessary for the future.   He seems perfectly contented with himself and his surroundings and is like a growing child receiving new impressions day by day gazing with often wondering eyes at the pictures on the walls, at the newspapers and of the windows and so on. Yesterday he had a small piece of a newspaper and followed them up and down the ward and pointed out repeatedly when and as capable 3 or 4 advertisements saying ‘See this’, ‘That is good.’ and so like a child who after learning something, lets everybody know how clever it is. His speech is slow and hesitating when asked questions regarding any effort to answer but not to slow and with some animation when he is allowed to speak about the subject which interests him and he is often interrupted by childish laughter, occurring without any apparent cause, but suggestive of the glee which a child displays on showing to others its cleverness or its mastery of something new. Of course he is unlike a child in that there’s no mental growth. Mentally he appears the same today as on admission, if anything perhaps more contented and more obedient, having settled down into a regular routine and not requiring the persuasion he did at first before doing what he is asked to do. His habits are moderately clean and he requires to be well looked after on his account of his occasional lapses.

I thought I would finish this blog post with a little more of John’s life story.

When John was admitted to the asylum in March 1904, he left a wife and 3 small children (aged 6 years, 4 years and 7 months) behind in Belfast.

This is John’s middle child, his only daughter, named Maud, who would become my great-grandmother:


Maud was obviously too young to understand what happened to her Daddy but I reckon she would have been old enough to understand that her Daddy had disappeared.  In this photo I would say Maud is maybe aged 6 or 7 and she doesn’t look very happy.  (Actually when I review our surviving photos of Maud, she only actually looks happy after she married, perhaps her family life without her Daddy was so hard and her family suffered so badly).  Maud lived until 1995 and is still remembered as a true matriarch of our family.

Finally, I have been racking my brain as to where John was buried.  His wife and her children and grandchildren emigrated from Belfast to Glasgow in 1925 and John is therefore not buried with his wife in Tollcross cemetery, Glasgow or with his daughter Maud in St Kentigern’s cemetery, Glasgow.  I also discovered that John was not buried in the cemetery at Hartwood asylum indicating that his body had been ‘claimed’ by his family.

I then wondered if his mother and siblings in Rutherglen might have buried John in Rutherglen.  I e-mailed the Bereavement Services department at South Lanarkshire council and they confirmed that John was indeed buried in Rutherglen cemetery with his parents and brother.

My good friend and colleague Jane at Turnstone Genealogy in Rutherglen was kind enough this week to go and find John’s last resting place for me:

As you can see the family headstone is rather broken but, as a family, we will see if we can get it repaired and we will take some flowers in tribute to John.

I hope you’ve found reading about John Stevens interesting.  I’m really discovering so much more about my ancestors via their asylum records.

I will hope to share with you in a few weeks some more of the surviving medical records for my ‘Ancestors in Asylums’.  I’m also looking forward to exploring surviving poor law records for my ancestors who were in asylums.

Sources used: Hartwood Asylum Case Books accessed at North Lanarkshire Archives, Motherwell.














Why were my ancestors in asylums – part 2 of ‘Ancestors in the Asylums’

This week I have spent 2 afternoons in the National Records of Scotland and one afternoon in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Archive trying to find out exactly why my ancestors were placed in asylums.  In this blog post, I’m going to share with you the reasons for John Milne Hunter, Jane Mann and John Stevens going into asylums.

I’ve spent the week on the verge of tears many times at the thought of how mentally ill my ancestors were so I am interested in your reactions.

Along the way this week I’ve discovered yet another ancestor who was in an asylum.  A questionnaire was completed on entrance to the asylum and one question was ‘was anyone else in the family insane’. And another name joined the list of ‘lunatics’ …

John Milne Hunter

As a reminder, John was the brother of my great, great grandfather and was in the Govan Parochial Asylum also known as Merryflats for 5 months in 1884, was transferred from Merryflats to the Barony Parochial Asylum also known as Woodilee for 5 months from 1884 to 1885 and then back to Merryflats from 1896 until his death in 1925.

This is Merryflats:


When John first went into an asylum in 1884, he had been discharged from the army as insane 14 days beforehand and it was believed his insanity derived from a head injury.  John was noted as being dangerous to others.

The first doctor that examined him said of him: ‘Very excitable and delusive. Talks incoherently. Has a wild looking appearance and conducts himself strangely. His mother states that he is restless and that she has to watch and humour him.’

The second doctor that examined him said of him: ‘Is very excited looking and incoherent. Mutters to himself about going under. Keeps constantly expectorating and turning on the water tap. His mother states that he was discharged from the army as insane on the 1st July and that he has threatened his brother and sister with a poker.’ Expectorating meaning coughing up phlegm.

When John is readmitted in 1896, his mental health has clearly taken a turn for the worse.

The first doctor that examined him said of him: ‘ Lies in bed quite naked, refuses to speak or answer questions. His mother states that he has been strange in his manner for some time, is sometimes violent, is refusing his food and has been in the asylum before’.

The second doctor that examined him said of him: ‘Found him in bed but when questioned would not answer but covered his head and behaved in an insane manner.  His mother states that he has been strange since October and that he has ben getting worse and was found by the police wandering about and behaving strangely.’

I am now beginning to access John’s medical notes which I will share in a future blog post.

Jane Mann

As a reminder Jane was the first cousin of my great, great-grandmother.  Jane was in Inverness asylum for 7 months between 1896 and 1897 and then in the same asylum for 40 years and 2 months from 1901 until her death in 1941.

This is Inverness asylum:


When Jane was admitted the first time, she was said to be rather dangerous to others!

The first doctor that examined her said of her: ‘ Talks incessantly in an incoherent manner, has seen visions and heard voices from the sky. Talks of people whom she does not know as passing under various aliases and being friends of hers. Her mother informs me that she has threatened to strike her without any reason and has told her she has seen her father who is dead and continually talks nonsense.’

The second doctor that saw her said of her: ‘Continually talking incoherently, has seen visions of several persons constantly in the room. Has an idea that one or two people wish to harm and injure her, has the appearance of an insane person.  Her sister mentions that during the past 5 or 7 weeks she has had violent attacks of excitement and has threatened to strike both she and her mother.’

Unfortunately by the time Jane was readmitted she was now suicidal.

When Jane was readmitted, the first doctor said of her: ‘She talks of seeing and hearing people at night who do not exist and thinks she is in danger and she talks of drowning herself.   Her sister Bella Mann informs me that she has repeatedly threatened to do away with herself and is constantly seeing people and hearing voices who do not exist.’


The second doctor that saw her when she was readmitted said: ‘Has an odd melancholy look, has a delusion that people went about her house and were going to take her to prison because she had done something wrong.  Has a feeling that she is to harm her mother and sister. Mr John MacBean, Assistant Inspector of Poor, Inverness says that she imagines that people come into the house by the window to do her harm. Wants to drown herself because she imagines she has done harm to her sister and mother.’

I am looking forward with interest to seeing what records for Jane’s stay have survived in Inverness Archives.

John Stevens

As a reminder John was my great, great grandfather and was in Hartwood Asylum near Shotts for a year from March 1904 until his death in February 1905.

This is Hartwood Asylum:



I have always been curious as to why John died in Shotts when his wife and children were in Belfast.  I have discovered that some of his family were living in Rutherglen (21 miles from Shotts) and I suspect that, going by how much his mental health had deteriorated (see below), I now believe that his wife was concerned about the effect his behaviour would have on their young children (aged 7, 5 and 1 at the time of his admission).

When John was admitted he was said to be a danger to others.

The first doctor that examined John on admission to the asylum said of him: ‘He lies in bed and is dull and apathetic and refuses to rise. He says he was employed with Robinson and Charon in New York (he was employed with the firm in Belfast). He keeps on saying that ‘it is down’ constantly referring to his rupture, he states it is not rupture and that his testicles are down. Patient’s mother states that he exposes himself indecently in the house and that he is sometimes afraid to sit down in case of breaking his testicle. James Stevens (his brother) states that patient blamed his mother for bring down the rupture and was going to strike her and that he walks around the house with his trousers down.’

The second doctor that saw John was of the following opinion: ‘He is considerably demented, his memory is very poor, he is also very irritable, his speech is quite incoherent and he cannot give a rational account of his doings.  James Stevens his brother says he is very depressed and that at times he becomes excited and violent. He is guilty of indecent exposure of his person.’

In a few weeks I am going to investigate what records have survived for John’s stay in Hartwood Asylum at North Lanarkshire Archives

My gut instinct, when I realised how many ancestors I my family tree were in asylums, was that it was not going to be good news and not simply menopause or depression.  However I am still quite shocked.  Besides seeking further records for these poor souls, I am now interested in researching what their living conditions were like at these particular ancestors and how well they were cared for.

(Source of the information in this blog post: Notices of the Admissions by the Superintendents of the Mental Institutions, series MC2, National Records of Scotland).