Names & Census Info

UPDATE: GOOD BYE! 10.12.2016

QUESTIONS & CONCERNS: CONTACT JOHN ALLEN, Director, Office of Mental Health, Office of Consumer Affairs, Central Office Staff, 44 Holland Avenue, Albany, New York 12229, Phone: (518) 473-6579, Fax: (518) 474-8998.

The names of The Inmates of Willard can be found on the internet from such sources as the U.S. Federal Censuses, genealogy websites, historical documents, and books; everywhere except where they should be, on headstones in New York State Hospital cemeteries and in a searchable database available to the public. I have transcribed the Willard censuses from Ancestry.com for the years 1870, 1880, 1900 and 1920 and presented 199 pages in the hope that you may easily find your ancestor. 1880 “3D” are the Defective, Dependent and Delinquent Federal Censuses which gives some medical information. These names do not represent the former patients buried in the Willard Cemetery however they will provide you with the resources to start the search for your loved one. These spreadsheets are to be viewed and treated with respect.

NO MATTER HOW HARD THEY TRY, MENTAL HEALTH OFFICIALS AND LAWMAKERS WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO STOP GENEALOGY GEEKS AND THE FLOW OF INFORMATION ON THE INTERNET!
(Page Created 11.7.2011)

Click on the RED Links below to search for your loved one (PDF Files).
Census 1870 Willard Employees.
Census 1870 Willard Inmates Men & Women.
Census 1880 Willard Inmates Men.
Census 1880 Willard Inmates Women.
Census 1880 Willard Inmates Men 3D.
Census 1880 Willard Inmates Women 3D.
Census 1900 Willard Inmates Men.
Census 1900 Willard Inmates Women.
Census 1920 Willard Inmates Men.
Census 1920 Willard Inmates Women.
Census Interpretation 1920.
Willard Asylum Cemetery (Veterans Names) Military Section, Seneca County, NY.

BINGHAMTON STATE HOSPITAL CEMETERY, BINGHAMTON, NEW YORK – Asylum Cemetery Records.
Binghamton State Hospital Cemetery – Find-A-Grave.

CRAIG COLONY MEMORIAL CEMETERY, SONYEA, LIVINGSTON COUNTY, NEW YORK – Find-A-Grave.

DANNEMORA STATE HOSPITAL CEMETERY, CLINTON COUNTY, NEW YORK – Find-A-Grave

GOWANDA STATE HOSPITAL CEMETERY, ERIE COUNTY, NEW YORK – Find-A-Grave.

LETCHWORTH VILLAGE STATE CEMETERY, ROCKLAND COUNTY, NEW YORK – Find-A-Grave

MATTEAWAN STATE HOSPITAL CEMETERY, FISHKILL, DUTCHESS COUNTY, NEW YORK – Find-A-Grave

ROME DEVELOPMENTAL CEMETERY, ROME, ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK – RootsWeb.

Rochester, Monroe County, New York (PDF File): Names: Monroe County Poorhouse, Asylum, Penitentiary, Other Charities 1838 to 1860.

1898 Names of New York State Civil Service Workers.
(Beginning on page 121, you will be able to find ancestors who worked at State Hospitals and Custodial Institutions. You will have to keep scrolling down until you find the hospital or institution you are looking for).

1888 Monroe County Insane Asylum, Rochester, NY (Names).

1883 New York State County Poor House Report – 7.26.2012

NAMES INCLUDED IN THE FOLLOWING LINKS (PDF Files) County Poorhouses were often the first place that people with mental illnesses and developmental or intellectual disabilities were placed. New York State County Poorhouse Report 1883:
Albany, Allegany, Broome & Cattaraugus Counties 1883.
Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango & Clinton Counties 1883.
Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Dutchess & Erie Counties 1883.
Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Hamilton & Herkimer Counties 1883.
Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Monroe & Montgomery Counties 1883.
Niagara, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario & Orange Counties 1883.
Orleans, Oswego, Otsego, Putnam & Queens Counties 1883.
Rensselaer, Richmond, Rockland, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben & Suffolk Counties 1883.
Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster & Warren Counties 1883.
Washington, Wayne, Westchester, Wyoming & Yates Counties 1883.

1880 Sickness-U.S. Federal Census-IPUMS USA – 2.21.2013.

Cottages at Willard Asylum - Roger Luther at nysAsylum.com

Cottages at Willard Asylum – Roger Luther at nysAsylum.com

The U.S. Federal Census – Instructions To Enumerators provided by:
Steven Ruggles, J. Trent Alexander, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Matthew B. Schroeder, and Matthew Sobek. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010.

Census 1870 IPUMS USA
Census 1880 IPUMS USA
Census 1900 IPUMS USA
Census 1920 IPUMS USA

Willard Asylum - Roger Luther at nysAsylum.com

Willard Asylum – Roger Luther at nysAsylum.com

To learn more about The Willard Asylum for the Insane, buy my book:
The Inmates of Willard 1870 to 1900, A Genealogy Resource

1. CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO They’re Buried Where? by Seth Voorhees
2. Cemetery Information at the NYS Office of Mental Health
3. New York State Hospitals, Custodial Institutions & Cemetery Projects.
4. Willard Cemetery Memorial Project.

88 thoughts on “Names & Census Info

  1. Thank you for your reply concerning the names … this will be very helpful in finding out more about the people in the institute. I know it took a lot of work. I commend you! Thank you for this. I hope you find out more about your family member who was in the Willard Institute. Does anyone in your family remember any stories that has been passed down through the years about your relative? Take care and thank you again. “People” history and “cultural” history is really fascinating to me. I am not very good at dates, and historical events when it comes to history. History to me is about people and emotional journeys. It seems like the older I get the more I look backwards….

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    • Hi Barbara, Are you also a Genealogy Geek? Keep in mind that all these state insane asylums, later renamed state hospitals, are closed and abandoned. Willard’s main building was torn down in 1995 but many of the buildings on the property still stand and are used for other purposes (Drug Treatment Facility). I found out that my great-grandmother died there from an obituary; I don’t know if my mother even knew that her grandmother was a patient there. They were from a different generation who didn’t talk about these things, mainly out of fear. Another book that you may like reading is “The Lives They Left Behind” by Darby Penney. She was able to get patient medical records and photographs; it is quite depressing but worth reading. If you want to see some of these old buildings, go the the “Links” page and scroll down to New York State. Thanks again and keep in touch! -Lin

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      • I just learned about your book and am looking forward to purchasing it. My great grandmother’s sister was put in Willard and died there, but fortunately relatives placed her in a good resting place at Temple Hill in Geneseo. I had requested records from the office in Binghamton and was sent the form you mention to have completed. It struck me as totally ridiculous since she’s been dead for over 100 years, how could I obtain a doctor’s statement about the need for treatment? It seemd like a total runaround. I put the form away and resigned myself to not ever knowing more about my ancestor and her time at Willard. I’d like to know more about her condition at that time, I know people were put away for minor things back in the day, she may have been glum, excitable, or perhaps really mentally ill. Thank you for your extensive work.

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        • Hi Janet, My great-grandmother died there as well. All I can tell you is that the information cannot be released because of the federal HIPAA law, which I thought was created to protect the living, not the dead. I agree that it is ridiculous. All I wanted to know was her diagnoses, how long she was there, how was she treated and how she died. You wouldn’t think that would be a big deal considering that she died 84 years ago. What is even more disturbing is that the patients buried in the cemetery cannot be identified unless approved by a descendent. What is the state going to do, request the genealogy of 6,000 descendents? The whole situation is frustrating, dehumanizing and insulting; it is not a top priority which means without public awareness and support, no change will come about. Thanks so much for writing!! -Lin

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  2. Hi I was helping a woman find info about her great grandmother, who died in the Ogdensburg State Hospital in 1901. She wrote to the hospital and they gave her the death date and the number of the gravestone in the hospital cemetery. When we stated we would be visiting the State Hospital cemetery, they sent out a crew to find the numbered stone and put a flag on it. We were easily able to locate the stone as a result. Why did we receive such wonderful help?

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    • That is how it should be! Is the state hospital St. Lawrence State Hospital? I know that the Willard and Rochester State Hospital burial and patient medical records are protected under the federal HIPAA Laws which would apply to all former NYS hospitals. A descendant can inquire where their ancestor is buried and mark the grave with an engraved headstone, but in most cases these hospitals no longer exist and people don’t know where to begin their search. There is a bill that was recently introduced in the NYS Senate that if passed, would allow the release of patient names, dates of birth and death. Let’s hope it passes!

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  3. The Inmates of Willard1870-1900 is one of the best books I have read. Stuhler has compiled the historical facts that explain the plight of the pauper insane and the laws passed to end their suffering. These laws provided for the creation of the Willard asylum , where the poor would recieve proper care and be treated in a humane fashion.
    Contrary to popular belief, Asylums were not the houses of horror, but a solution to the misery and abuses of the County Poorhouse system.jca

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  4. This blog is very interesting. I have a great uncle who was hosptalized at Kings Park Hospital for the insame from the 1940, until he died in 1968. How do you find out anything with the HIPPA law enforced. I know his birth and death date and the fact that he was married, that is as all I can find out. My mother has passed on and did not know her father’s family or assumed they were all dead. Now that I am into my family history I keep running into dead ends. It is very frustrating because there is no one to ask the hard questions.

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    • Dear Tricia, My understanding is that Pilgrim Psychiatric Center holds all the burial ledgers and medical records for Kings Park State Hospital. I would write them a personal letter asking for the burial information on your uncle but you will not get the medical records. If you look at “My Story” you will see that I have written to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand about the HIPAA Medical Records issue. They totally ignored the issue. Currently, I have gotten the attention of Senator Joe Robach to introduce into the NYS Legislature a bill to release the names of ALL PATIENTS who were incarcerated, died, and buried in NYS Hospital Cemeteries so that we won’t have to go through this just to find out where are ancestors are buried. There is a ton of information on this blog so click around. Thanks and Good Luck!

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  5. I’m looking forward to exploring your site. My great-granduncle probably died at Willard, but we don’t know. In 1879, a newspaper article indicated he was sent to the Utica asylum as “crazy man”, but his case was “considered curable”. He appears in the Utica 1880 3D census and then in the 1900 census, he was in Willard (although he’s not shown in your Names database). His name was Hopkins Murray. I wish I knew more about his history at Willard.

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    • I wrote a book about the first 30 years of Willard. It is packed with original documents from that time period. If your ancestor was at Willard in 1900 but is not listed on the census, that means that he was not there on the day the census was taken. A new ruling from HIPAA came in March 2013 when they stated that medical records shall be made available 50 years after a person’s death. The problem is that each individual state has to decide if they are going to comply. So far, New York State has remained silent.

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  6. I had a family at Willard and was hoping for information for my family tree. His name was Elmer Acker. do they ever do tours of Willard. My friend Tina and I have always want to see it. And now that i had a family member there i would like to see it even more along with my dad. I don’t know what years he was there.

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    • Dear Susan, They do have a tour of the Willard complex every May on the second or third Saturday of the month. Do you think he is buried in the Willard Cemetery? You may want to start asking your relatives what they know about your ancestor and start compiling information. As it stands right now, the New York State Office of Mental Health is not releasing medical records. Try to get as much info as you can so that you can figure out what years he was there.

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  7. The only information i have from my dad is his name was Elmer David Acker and he died there 2-4-1953. I am not sure if he is burried there or not my dad can’t remember.

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    • Hi Susan, The 1940 census was just released in 2012 so you may be able to find him there. 1950 won’t be released until 2022, so that doesn’t help you now. You could go to the NYS Vital Records website, under genealogy, print out the form, fill it out, and mail it back in order to get a copy of his death certificate. I’m not sure of the charge on that but it’s worth it. Often times it will tell you where the person was buried. If bill S2514-2013 passes in the New York State Legislature, we all will be able to find out who is buried in these former state hospital cemeteries. Keep in touch and let me know what you find out. I’m here if you have any more questions. -Lin

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      • This is really helpful to me. One of my ancestors lived in the hospital and is listed on the 1930 census. Aside from his birth in Ireland , his arrival in Canada with family and the info gleaned from 1930 census, there is nothing more found on his life. He is listed as employed as a parter (sic) which I assume means porter, or janitor/doorman. I would like to find out more about his life or death and appreciate the info above. Thank you.

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  8. Thank you for your effort to give a touch of humanity, dignity and gentleness to a very important part of knowing our family members departed, and ourselves as well.
    My experience is this and has a measure of tragedy. In 1910 our cousin Julia Mariani was 25 years. She was the granddaughter of Giovanni Mariani, a world famous musician, and violinist at LaScala Opera House, Milan, Italy. Illness and death of parents forced her to be responsible to care for a large family of children. Unable to bear the burden, she was committed to an institution for the Insane at Kings Park in 1910 and remained in care for 30 years.
    The 1940 US Census shows that 55 yr old Cousin Julia Mariani was transferred to Willard Hospital. There we lose track of her, but can presume she died in and was buried at Willard in Ovid.
    Two separate issues. We believe it is very important for us know where she died and was buried. In addition, the mental health history of our present family members requires that we get a better understanding of the mental health of our past family members .

    In addition to researching, and reading the book “The Lives They Left Behind”, I visited the Cemeteries in Ovid. I will continue my search until I can place a flower bouquet on her place of rest.
    If there is any way I can assist in the greater cause, I am interested to know.
    The Rev. Donald Hoff
    Elmira, New York

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    • Dear Reverend,
      Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are correct that releasing the names of the patients buried in anonymous graves and obtaining their medical records are two different issues. At the top of this page is the link to Senate Bill S2514-2013 that is currently before the NYS Legislature to release the names after 50 years of the patient’s death. I personally don’t understand why anyone’s name should be withheld but in any case, call or write a letter to Senators Joseph Robach and Michael Nozzolio and let them know that you support this bill and would like to see it become a law. Also, at the top of this page is an article about the HIPAA Law which states that a relative can obtain the medical records of a deceased person 50 years after their death. The problem is that New York State would have to pass another law in order for this to happen. The wheels of government turn very slowly. I feel like giving up, like they’re not listening. I wrote a book, I started this blog in July 2011, a local news reporter made a video piece, and I contacted Senator Robach to draft the bill. I don’t know what else I can do. Anything you can do to help would be greatly appreciated! Sincerely, Lin

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  9. I just found you! This is so interesting, what a wonderful and historical work you have done. Can’t wait to read so much more, wish the day lasted 48 hours sometimes.

    Seriously, thank you for this tremendous work and all your efforts.

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  10. I wasnt able to bring up the names list byr was looking for my grandfather in Willard. Hus name was John Bews. Can you help me try to find him? Thanks

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    • Hi Chas, Do you have any idea when he was at Willard; what year? I have some censuses but not all. If he arrived there in say 1922 and died in 1928, his name will not show up on the census as they only take these every 10 years. I will be happy to help you as much as I can. -Lin

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      • I think John Bews was in Willard in the late 1940s until he died sometime in the 1950s. All the relatives that would know anything are all dead. Thank you for your help.

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  11. My great grandmother’s sister, Georgia Edgerly, was committed to the St Lawrence State Hospital in 1898 at age 25 (unmarried). I have been able to trace her there though the 1910 census and then she disappears. I contacted the hospital re her burial, and they state she is not in their cemetery. I am waiting for word for NYS re a death certificate if their is one under her maiden name. Obviously, any family member with personal knowledge of her circumstances is dead. Do you have any other areas I can persue? fyi, I have already searched all genealogical websites. Thanks.

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    • Hi Laurie, Maybe she got better and was released. I wonder if you request a marriage certificate, although that would cost a lot of money because you have no idea if and when she married. She may have gone home or stayed in that area. Have you checked the local cemeteries online? Look for her under her maiden name first. Many cemeteries have lists of burials online at USGenWeb under New York, then click on specific county. I hope I helped you and please let me know what you find. Tracing women is much harder than tracing men.

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      • Thanks for the input. Yes, I’ve checked all the onine cemeteries, actually all over the us and canada. I have many of her sister’s diaries and find no mention of her there, and as I previously stated no census record after 1910. There was a 1915 census, but she’s not listed there either,so something happened between 1910 and 1915. It’s a mystery, and a very frustrating one. Appreciate your input.

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          • No, I’m not surprised either; her other sister died in
            1901 (when Georgia was in the psychiatric institute) and they never even mentioned her in the obit. So sad. I’ll keep you posted.

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            • Well, I finally solved the mystery. Got the death certificate from NYS. She died in 1911 at the hospital after a 5 yr illness, and her body was released to her sister (my great grandmother) for burial. Still no location for her grave, but at least I finally know when she died. Thanks again for all your suggestions.

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              • I’m happy for you! If you know where your great-grandmother lived, check the cemeteries in that area. I have found that cemetery staff are very helpful and many will answer your request by email. Good Luck!! -Lin

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  12. My great grandmother Selma Ulrich was first admitted to Buffalo State Insane Asylum on 2/15/1887, 11/27/1887 my grandfather was born Herman William Ulrich. During 1888-1889 she took both her children back to Germany. 1892-93 Selma is at Rochester State Hospital. 7/29/1897 she died at Willard State Hospital. She is buried with her husband, Frederick and his second wife in Batavia, Genesee, NY. Would like to know dates of admission and released to all 3 hospitals. Dates that I did find, I found through newspaper articles. Also wondered if my grandfather was born in Buffalo State Insane Asylum or she was released before he was born? It is crazy that NY State does not release records as she is 117 years old!

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  13. What a long painstaking work! Thank you for doing it. I have an ancestor who was committed sometime prior to 1880 (I already have her census records showing that she was there then) and she died there in 1883. I am a novelist and would like to base a character on my ancestor, and am interested in your book. I just would like to know if your book talks about life as it might have been for her in the 1880s.

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    • My book is a history of how New York State Poor Houses gave way to the creation of Asylums/Hospitals, how patients were treated, what they were fed, laws, editorials of that time period, etc. I did not have access to personal medical records. You may also be interested in “The Lives They Left Behind” by Darby Penney. Both are available on Amazon. Thanks so much!! -Lin

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  14. Yeah, I have that book on my wish list, though they cover a time period later than the one I’m interested in, and also your book.I plan on getting them both along with some others as soon as I can. My doctor doesn’t “need” my ancestor’s records, so I doubt I could get access that way, but it sure would be interesting to see.

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  15. My name is Rich Meyers. My Great Grand Uncle William Mandel lived at Willard for a number of years and ended up working and living at the Facility until he died. Thing is, I don’t have any information as to when he passed and where he was laid to rest.

    William Mandel was born abt. 1909 in Syracuse, NY. I found him in the 1940 Census in Willard. Nothing after. The only things I know were told by my maternal Grandmother, Willard’s niece.

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  16. what about Creedmoor Psychiatric Center? I am looking for my Great Uncle Matthew Callahan which I know he died in the facility back in 1957, based on family telling me. Any help is greatly appreciated.

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    • Hi Rita, You can send for a copy of his death certificate at the NYS Vital Records page. The NYS Office of Mental Health will not release medical records at this time. You can also look him up on the U.S. Federal Census, and lastly you can contact NYSOMH to find out where he is buried at: http://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/faq/

      Good Luck!! -Lin

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  17. I had a relative who was a patient at Willard hospital in 1920 but his name did not appear on the list, what can I do to find out where he is.

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  18. Lin, my husband’s great grandmother was in Willard from 1918-1940. On the census form for 1910, where she was a patient in Mattaewan State Hospital, some of the female inmates (including my relative, Annie Brenner) have a small “x” written above the word inmate and then the notation “ot” or “et” I believe. I also found this notation under some of the female nurses with the x above the word nurse. It is not written on any of the males. With your experience with various records etc., would you know what this designation meant? I ordered your book, The Inmates of Willard. It is full of interesting information and helps the reader get a glimpse of the conditions and atmosphere of these institutions during that time.

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  19. I believe that my grandmother was a patient there at one time, right around 1950 or so. I know she spent time in a couple state hospitals, in upstate NY. My mom talked about when she would visit her as a young child along with my grandfather. When my Mom passed a few years ago, I aquired a walking stick that I believe a patient made at Willard. The date inscribed on this wooden stick is 1928 (Nov. 2, 1928)and has the initials “WF”. It’s very interesting to look at, it has pictures all over it with I believe the patient’s ID #(although it’s very small and hard to distinguish). I’m not sure how my grandfather/grandmother would have gotten this stick, but love to find out more about the history of this. I can always send pictures of this wooden stick.

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  20. I believe that our cousin, Julia Mariani, last listed in the 1940 Census at Willard, probably died there, but not certain. I have checked local cemeteries. Maura, wondering if your Grandmother died at the hospital, and where she was buried. Thank you.

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  21. I believe I had an ancestor at Middletown State Homeopathic Hospital at one time. The 1930 census says she was an inmate but can’t find out the information. Her maiden name was Belle F. Tooke. Her married name was Belle F. Greene. Not sure if she was married then or not.

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  22. Hi, I have found my Aunt’s name in 3 census records listed with a lot of Nuns and I knew she was in a place that Was Saint something and had Feeble minded children in the name, But the census records doesn’t tell the name of the institution or the location, only a bunch of census codes. The 1930 record has this at the bottom of the page… ” District: 0067 , Sheet Number and Letter: 1A , Household ID: 1 , Line Number: 19 , Affiliate Name: The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) , Affiliate Publication Number: T626 , Affiliate Film Number: 1627 , GS Film number: 2341361 , Digital Folder Number: 004639197 , Image Number: 01050 .

    How can I find out which place that was? Also The 1920 census says ward 10, and the 1915 says ward 3. Very confusing. Love your site!!! Marsha

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    • Thanks, Marcia! Does it list the city and state? Sometimes you have to keep clicking the back button and start at the beginning of the census to find out where it was taken. Once you find that out, you can google everything else. As far as wards go, they moved people to different wards depending on their health concerns. Let me know what you find out! -Lin

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  23. Morning, I am trying to find a missing Aunt for my boyfriend her name is Frances Kathleen Clancy in the 1940 census she was a resident I east Harlem going to school in the 6 grade. But due due her fathers accidental death 4 years later she wound up in Letchworth village . I have called the company that now runs that place but they will not give me any information siting hippa but all I want or need is date of death if we are supposed to wait 50 years how do I know when we can do that if we don’t know when she died?

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    • Hi Rose, This is what this blog is all about. Call your state senator and COMPLAIN!!!!! Tell them that you want bill S2514-2013 to become a law. Senator Joe Robach first sponsored this bill. It’s not HIPPA, it’s the NYS Office of Mental Health blocking this bill. It has been before the state assembly since 2011.

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  24. My Great Grandfather, James Costello, was an inmate at Willard from 1881 until his death in 1921, age 79. I find it so absurd that access to “medical” records is denied family members. Not only would the medical records be of value to the family’s medical history but what about correspondence with family members or visits by family – my grandfather was only 9 when his father was institutionalized, yet I can’t help but wonder if he ever made contact with his father once an adult. When my great grandfather died, the funeral was held from his son’s home in Syracuse and burial followed in the family plot in Fayetteville. 40 years is a long time to be away from home!

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  25. I finally found out about the death of a great aunt who was in the St Lawrence State Hospital in Ogdensburg by requesting a death certificate from New York State. I had a date range for her death based on the last census she was in. The death certificate gave cause of death and, undertaker, who claimed the body, and where the body was removed to for burial, although I have to find her grave. I was initially stumped because their was no record of her burial at the hospital. Just a suggestion for those still searching for information about loved ones. The website is https://www.health.ny.gov/vital_records/

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  26. I think all the folks who have written in this interesting blog have a need to know about Mental hospitals in years gone by.
    1. an Irish Uncle who was in the Boar war got what we now call shell shock and was in the ‘mental” for 39 years until his death in 1941.
    2. My GGGrandfather’s third wife died in a mental hospital in Canada, and was that hard to find, and she had ” female complaints” in other words were there menopause symptoms?
    3. note the people in the hospital because of a stoke, or heart ailment

    in other words some hospitalizations were notoriously odd and not really in a lot of cases what we would think of as mental illness.

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  27. My Great Grand Uncle was a resident of Willard for a number of years. I had originally believed he might be buried on the Willard Cemetery, but later found out he is buried near his parents in Syracuse, NY.

    Originally believing my Great Grand Uncle was there, I understand the pain and frustration of not knowing where loved ones are buried. I think there needs to be a major effort to clean up Willard Cemetery, make it a respectful representation of the souls that occupy it and work out an identification system for those who do have loved ones there.

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  28. My Great Uncle Anthony Balon was a patient at Gowanda Homeopathic Hospital from Feb 24, 1937 until his death on Nov 8, 1957. I am from North Eastern Pa, but my Balon family roots are from the Buffalo area of NY. Since I retired, I have done research on my family history and have only recently learned of my families link to western NY. My Grandfather and a sibling moved south to Pa. in the very early years of the 1900’s. 4 other siblings, Uncle Anthony included, raised families in the Buffalo area. Thru the help of Mr. David Mack-Hardiman of the Museum of disability, I was able to request and receive Uncle Anthony’s death certificate for the town of Collins NY. My doctor has also written to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center and requested my Uncle’s medical records in order to complete my family medical history. I received a polite but short reply that stated my uncle was in fact not a patient at Gowanda, but a patient at another institution and that these records were destroyed. Because I know that this information is incorrect (since his death certificate is clearly marked Gowanda Homeopathic Hospital and lists the term and dates of his admission, death, cause of death, and long term condition AND that I have been able to find him on the 1940 US census as an “inmate” at Gowanda) I very recently wrote long letters, providing the death certificate and census information, to the Director of the Buffalo Psychiatric Center and to the Commissioner of Mental Health of NY. Since these letters were very recent, I am still hoping and indeed, expecting some sort of reply. Mr. Mack-Hardman, has even suggested to me that some institutions took yearly photographs of the patients and that such photographs may be in the files. In truth, I would consider a photo of Uncle Anthony as nearly priceless. I in fact stated that in my recent letters, hoping to elicit a degree of compassion. Hopefully, I will be able to post in a few weeks that I received a packet from my family’s past.
    Thanks for reading,
    Frank D. Balon
    Freeland, Pa

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    • Thank you so much for sharing your story, Frank! I wish you the best of luck!! The NY State Hospitals did indeed take photographs of patients. I would love to have the photos and medical records of my great-grandmother who died at Willard in 1928. The Office of Mental Health simply does NOT care. There has been a bill before the state legislature since 2011 to would allow the names, dates of birth and death, and location of grave in these unmarked cemeteries with anonymous graves. They OMH does NOT want this to become a law let alone allowing descendants to obtain photos and medical records. Keep writing letters. Write or call your state senator as well!! -Lin

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  29. Hi Lin,
    Since I learned about Uncle Anthony back in the fall, I have been haunted by him. I cared for my bed-ridden father before he passed in 2011, and now am the primary care giver for me mother who has full-onset Alzheimer’s disease. I have a special place in my heart for the plight of Uncle Anthony. I have more recently been able to contact one of Anthony’s great-grand daughters in the Buffalo area. Other than knowing of him, she had no other information regarding his stay in Gowanda or his illness. Evidently, his committal to Gowanda was regarded as a deep family secret. And given the time being the 1930’s, I can not fault that. I have received a photo from the Grand-daughter of Anthony’s wife. But apparently, no photo’s of Anthony have survived. Incidentally, this great-grand daughter seems to be as interested as I to find out more about Anthony. The questions we have are … did he know what was happening to him? Did he have visitors? Was he content and well-treated? The great-grand daughter has found one photo that shows Anthony’s wife and one of her daughters taken near a bus. The destination sign on the bus appears to read … GOW…… We both think that they must have been going to visit Anthony. Also, on his death Certificate, it states that he is buried in St. Stans. Cemetery in Cheetawaga. (pardon my spelling attempt). So at least we know that he had visitors and people who cared about him. Incidentally, I received a reply this morning from the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. It was a short, polite reply that stated that they apologize for the error in stating that he was not a patient at Gowanda, but that the only information that they have on him was on a 3×5 index card which was copied and forwarded to me with the reply. The only information that I did not have previously (from the Death Certificate) was that he was in Ward 11. I sent my letter last Monday afternoon. They only could have received it late Weds or Thurs. For me to receive the reply today, they must have mailed it on Friday. I do not believe that 1 day search for 60 year old file or folder of photos could happen that quickly. My opinion of course. I will certainly continue my search.
    Thanks for listening.

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    • I agree with you, Frank. They enjoy blowing people off! Here is a link to the video Seth Voorhees made concerning my attempts to change the law and to end this ridiculous brick wall between We The People and the New York State Office of Mental Health. Best of Luck to you!!! -Lin

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  30. My cousin Julia Mariani spent her time as an inmate in Kings Park at Smithtown Long Island, NY from 1910 to 1940 when she was transferred by bus,all day without a break, with many others to Willard. Julia was born in 1885, and was 55 years old in 1940. This transfer is cited in the book “The Lives Left Behind”. The list of inmates at Willard in April -May 1940 is available in the Federal Census of 1940, along with the US Census of other years. Note that there were other NYS Census with include1905, 1915?, and 1929.

    I find it ncredible that Julia spent at least 30 in confinement- treatment-care- residence… whatever title we care to use. Just as mentioned by many others it was a family secret, we never heard it talked about. Most likely there were never family visitations. I discovered it through family research, and suspect she was originally placed due to depression and as the oldest family member, being stressed upon the death of family members. It is likely that what followed were Ice Baths, Electric Shock, and variety of medications.

    I have serched for the date of death, the cause and the place of burial, but have not discovered anything after the 1940 census.

    The NYS Office of Mental Hygiene does not appear to have an interest in assisting relatives in their desire to discover anything about their family and the disposition of their loved ones. It is an attitude as much as anything.
    I will continue to search, and plan on being present at the next open house tour in May.

    The Rev. Donald Hoff

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  31. Hi. I was reading the new posts and saw your comments about your cousin. My husband’s great grandmother was in Willard (among several others in NY prior to Willard) from 1918-1942. Her son ended up being an orphan at approx. age 3 once she was admitted so we searched orphanages, etc. and finally discovered her name, that she was Jewish and from Lithuania (what a surprise!) and didn’t speak any English upon arriving in Willard. I wrote for her death certificate back in 2001 and didn’t have any problems. I included a letter explaining I was a relative seeking information about her and that she was in Willard up until the 1940 census and possibly died around that date. We found out she died in 1944 from the death certificate. I was instructed at that time to write to Beatrice Licak at 1435 Prospect St., Box 177 in Willard, NY 14588 and to send a $10.00 check made out to the town of Romulus. The woman instructing me to do so was Gail Snyder at Box 374, Ovid, NY 14521 with a phone number of 607-869-5222. Hopefully this information may get you started on the right track.

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  32. Thank you for all the replies of encouragement. I will call the County numbers provided, and report on what I find or don’t find. Great to have a consultating team approach isn’t it?

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  33. I feel bad for the families that don’t get any help in finding loved ones lost in the state mental health system. I worked at Willard for 10 years. During that time I was put in charge of the burial detail. I was responsible for going to the administration building and getting the time/data capsule to put in the coffin. The time capsule was a glass vile with a cork that was sealed with some sort of red substance. At the morgue we placed the body in a coffin that was made of thin plywood covered with a fabric. The coffin had a inadequate latch that many times would come on latched by itself. If it was a non-Catholic service we sometimes nailed the coffin shut. After the service we transported the coffin to the cemetery in Willard’s black ambulance. There were no vaults that were placed in the ground. In private I would always cry. I feel that this Hippa excuse that the state uses is way overboard. Families are looking for closure ! This should be taken to the courts for God sakes.

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      • Dear Sir, I see that you were an employee of Willard and were involved with the burial of the residents. I have several lengthly posts regarding my Uncle Anthony Balon who was a paitent at Gowand for 21 years between 1936 and his death in 1957. I am trying to get any information on him. I have been told by the NY Mental Health system that his records were destroyed. I know you cannot specifically refer to my case, but in general: Would you say that records for patients still exist and are in storage somewhere or that they were destroyed?
        Kindest Regards and Thanks,
        Frank Balon
        Freeland Pa

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  34. I know that the state was transferring patient records to microfiche back in 2010 when I retired. I thought that was the plan for all the records. Maybe not. But I feel that the state of new York has not been so fore coming to the families asking info of patients in the mental health system by reading the pleas in this Blog. You have to ask your self why? Patient care in the facilities was a work in progress would be my guess. In 1970 the drugs that were being administered had side effects. No one knew ….is it side effect or is it the psychosis? Do we give more of a dosage. Records could lead to law suits ! This is just my opinion and a guess. Others that worked the wards need to be asked. Maybe its something?

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  35. I came upon this site looking for haunted areas in Ogdensburg NY. After reading some I feel that I must tell of a time that I witnessed human traces that were found in shallow parts of the river next to the addiction rehab center, Hamilton Hall. They found glasses, dentures and I also believe small bone remains. These were brought to the attention of the staff but they just told the finders to put them back where they were found. I did not follow up on where they were put only that I was a very disturbed by these finding as. My Aunt was a patient there probably in the late 50’s and beyond that for a short time. Thank God my Grandparents took her home and spent the rest of their lives caring for her. I am so sorry but I feel something bad was done there with loved ones that cannot be found in the missing death records and such. Please forgive me , I know this must be disturbing and horrifying, but I speak the truth. I should have told authorities but would they have done anything? God forgive me I should have tried to tell someone that would have listened and i am so ashamed that I never did. It was around 2008 I believe, that i was there.

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  36. I am looking for information on George Levinsky who was living at Craig Colony in 1940. A gravestone does exist for George Levinsky at Craig Colony Memorial that I found on Findagrave. How can I obtain more information about George, such as who his parents may have been, when he was placed at Craig, and the like. Thank you!

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  37. Hello,
    I am trying to find records for my maternal Grandmother who resided on and off for many years at the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane/Buffalo State Psychiatric Center during the early 1900s. Where do I start? Any help would be so very much appreciated. She was definitely there, is listed there under several census’, but I have no idea why she was there. Family didn’t talk about it and they have all passed on. Please help and thank you!

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  38. Mary Donahue Abare was found guilty of murdering her husband, Theophilus Abare, in August of 1883. She was examined and determined to be insane and initially sent to Hudson River State Hospital and from there transferred to Asylum for the Criminally Insane in Auburn, NY. This information was all noted in area newspapers from that era. However, determining if she was ever released or if she died in the facility has been information that I have not been able to locate. From what I have read in the above posts it would seem that it is highly unlikely that we will ever know.

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  39. Pingback: Top 12 Scariest Abandoned Places in the US - Scariest.com

  40. My mother was a nurse at the Newark NY facility. I know she was there in 1923 and gone by 1925. She is not in the 1920 census so she started after 1920 and left before 1924. Any way to find employment records?

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    • Go to Google, Type in Google Books, Type in Newark State School for Women, See what comes up. Also, add the words, Employment, Nurses, and see what happens. It’s time consuming but it is so interesting. There are tons of old New York State books/records that have been scanned. On Google, Type in Newark State School for Women Nurses. You never know what will pop up. Good Luck! -Lin

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  41. Where do I look if it’s after 1920? My Great Aunt Esther shows up living at home in the 1920 census, and then is not there with the family in 1930, and shows her husband was widowed by the 1940th census.

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    • NYS had interstitial state censuses between the Federal ones. So you could check 1925 and 1935 to pin down when she died. Then look for the death certificate.

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  42. Thank you for all your hard work. I had two relatives here. One was an aunt to the other one. In the 1920 census it has Mary M Douglass listed as B for black, but she was white. In the 1900 census she and Ellen Douglass are listed next to each other and both listed as W for white. The 1910 census in Ancestry (not given here) has Mary M Douglass listed as Mary M Hughes because the census transcriber couldn’t read the name although it was listed alphabetically. I’ve always wondered why the two were here. Wish I had known many years ago, so that I could have asked one of the relatives. Thank you again. I hope all your hard work will help many people find their loved ones.

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