This week we transferred the first of the Stirling District Asylum case books which have been cleaned and catalogued by our project team to the archives store. Another element of the project to prepare the archives of the Asylum for public use is the creation of a database of patients who were admitted to the hospital. The asylum’s patient registers record details of the admission and discharge of those treated in the hospital and this information is being carefully recorded and transcribed by our project team.
The registers provide fascinating information relating to the lives of the patients recording their age, marital status, previous occupation and place of abode. Medical details such as bodily condition, form of mental disorder and ‘supposed cause of insanity’ are also recorded. Alongside the standard medical reasons given some of the more unusual ‘supposed causes’ noted in the hospital’s first register, beginning in 1869, include ‘loneliness and religious contemplation’, ‘excessive use of ardent spirits’, ‘disappointment in love’ and ‘severe blow on temple from a golf ball.’ Another reason given is ‘Sunstroke’ – this however, was for a former soldier who suffered it while stationed in India. The registers also note if patients were previously admitted to the hospital and/or transferred to other institutions, which provides valuable information when trying to trace the movement of patients through the network of Scottish asylums.
The creation of this database of asylum patients will be of great benefit in a number of ways. It will provide a quick and efficient way of searching the records for individuals, assisting us in responding to genealogical enquiries. It will also reduce the actual handling of these old and damaged volumes, contributing to their long-term preservation. And for academic researchers it also allows the possibility of re-using the large amount of tabular / statistical information recorded in their research allowing, for example, breakdowns of the patient population by occupation or ‘place of abode.’