- How do you know if your ancestor was in an asylum?
- How to access patient records
- What records do we hold?
- Patient records
- For more information on mental health records
Try to gather as much information as you can.
What we need to know
To help you track down the records we need to know:
- what asylum your ancestor was in
- approximate date or year in asylum, and
- the date of death in the asylum or discharge from the asylum.
NOTE: We cannot search large periods of time as lengthy research would be required and we do not undertake research.
The only exception to this CPA direction are the records of the Liverpool State Hospital and Home, which are closed for 30 years.
The first mental asylum in the colony was at Castle Hill, from 1811-1825. Prior to this either Parramatta Gaol, or in some cases Bedlam Point at Gladesville, was used for keeping the insane.
By the early 1880s psychiatric outpatient clinics had been established at the following hospitals: Royal Prince Alfred; Sydney; St Vincents; Lewisham; North Shore; Parramatta; Newcastle; Goulburn and Orange.
State Records holds patient identifying records of many State managed mental health facilities. The hospitals, dates they operated, and the dates of the surviving records are listed below:
Name of hospital and dates the surviving records cover
Please note: Records may not be complete for the date ranges included in this list
Bay View House, Tempe operated 1865-1946
Surviving records cover c.1865-1946
Situated near the Cook's River, Tempe. A private lunatic asylum founded by Dr GA Tucker as an alternative to Government run asylums. In 1871 Bayview House contained 37 patients, of these 12 were private patients and the remaining 25 were State patients maintained at public expense. On 31 March 1946 Bayview House closed and all certified patients still resident were transferred to other hospitals.
Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic operated c.1915-76
Surviving records cover c.1915-63
Situated adjacent to Callan Park Mental Hospital. Between 1915 and 1920 No. 13 Auxiliary Military Hospital, Broughton Hall was run by the Australian Army Medical Corps and used to treat soldiers who had returned from war suffering from shell shock and other severe disorders. By June 1922 Broughton Hall Psychiatric Clinic had become an independent established entity. In 1976 Broughton Hall was amalgamated with Callan Park to form Rozelle Hospital.
Callan Park Mental Hospital operated c.1878-1976
Surviving records cover c.1877-1965
Situated on the banks of Iron Cove. The hospital was initially managed as a branch of Gladesville Hospital before being remodelled after Chartham Downs in Kent, England. Callan Park was officially opened in 1884 and continued to operate until it was amalgamated with Broughton Hall to form Rozelle Hospital in 1976.
Gladesville Mental Hospital (formerly Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum) operated c.1838-
Surviving records cover c.1822-1985
In 1838 the lunatic asylum was moved from Liverpool to Tarban Creek, Gladesville and the first patients were transferred from Liverpool Asylum and the Female Factory, Parramatta. It accepted patients from Victoria up until 1848 when the Yarra Bend asylum was opened. By the mid 1960s the institution was known simply as Gladesville Hospital. In 1993 premises at Gladesville Hospital and Macquarie Hospital were revoked as hospitals, and were amalgamated to form the Gladesville Macquarie Hospital.
Kenmore Mental Hospital operated c.1894-
Surviving records cover 1938-42
On 31 July 1894 the buildings on the Kenmore Estate, Goulburn, were appointed a Hospital for the Insane. In 1897 the returns for Kenmore show female patients (114) whereas previously it had only men. During World War II it was taken over by the Armed Services and all patients were transferred elsewhere.
Liverpool Lunatic Asylum operated c.1825-38
Surviving records cover c.1829-36
Castle Hill Asylum operated from 1811-25. In 1825 the building was found unfit for habitation and patients were moved to Liverpool Court House, which served as an asylum until 1838, when Tarban Creek (now Gladesville Hospital) was built.
Newcastle Psychiatric Centre operated 1871-
Surviving records cover c.1871-1976
In 1867 the military barracks at Watt Street, Newcastle was converted to a Reformatory for Girls. In 1871 after much community protest the reformatory was closed and by 1872 converted to an institution for the intellectually handicapped. The first patients (120) came from Gladesville and Parramatta Asylums. By 1887 it had 120 male and 107 female patients. By 1969 Newcastle Psychiatric Centre was in the midst of transition from a specialist centre for intellectual disability into a treatment centre for psychiatric patients.
Newcastle Psychiatric Hospital Reception House operated c.1903-71
Surviving records cover 1903-64
Patients were confined in the Reception House for several days until they either recovered or were assessed and sent to other hospitals, such as Gladesville or Morriset.
Parramatta Psychiatric Centre operated c.1848-
Surviving records cover c.1848-1989
In 1848 the old female factory at Parramatta became the "Convict, Lunatic and Invalid Establishment" and by 1849 it was a public asylum for the reception and custody of lunatics. From the outset, Parramatta Lunatic Asylum consisted of a free, and a criminally insane division.
Reception House, Darlinghurst operated 1868-1961
Surviving records cover c.1868-1962
Opened 1 July 1868. Patients were confined for several days until they either recovered or assessment was made. Prior to the opening of the Reception House patients were kept at the Watch House in Darlinghurst Gaol.
Rydalmere Psychiatric Centre operated c.1888-
Surviving records cover c.1888-1985
In 1888 the Protestant Orphan School buildings became the Rydalmere Hospital for the Insane, which operated as a branch of the Parramatta Hospital for the Insane until 1891. At this early stage patients came from either Parramatta or Gladesville Asylums. Between 1888-95 the hospital treated only male patients before taking in female patients from 1895.
Some legal files date back to 1855.
Temporary Hospital for the Insane, Cooma operated c.1877-84
Surviving records cover 1879-84
This institution was opened in January 1877 at the Cooma Gaol building and the first patients transferred from Gladesville Hospital. The Hospital also admitted patients from the Monaro district. In November and December 1884 all patients were transferred to Callan Park Hospital when the hospital closed.
Infirm and destitute asylums
State Records also holds records of some infirm and destitute asylums. These asylums cared for the poor and infirm as part of the Government's social and community services.
- George Street Asylum, Parramatta
- Hospital of Consumptives, Waterfall
- Lidcombe State Hospital and Home
- Liverpool State Hospital and Home
- Macquarie Street Asylum, Parramatta
- Newington State Hospital (closed 1964)
- Rookwood Asylum (later Lidcombe State Hospital and Home)
Most surviving records of asylums provide only brief details of the inmate's admission and discharge. It is rare to locate family history information or a case history of a patient. Many records are incomplete.
There are three main types of records listing patient details: Admission files, Case papers and Medical case books.
Registers of admissions and discharges usually contain a one line summary entry for each patient and this information can often be found in other patient records. Sometimes these records are issued in a 'masked' format where all entries other than the requested patient entry are hidden from view.
1. Admission files
These papers give details of patient's name, occupation, place of abode, date of admission, age, marital status, native place, religious persuasion and a brief outline of case history up to the time of admission - previous admissions, insane relations, doctors' and relatives' observations on the patient's behaviour.
Some files also include correspondence, e.g. letters from other institutions noting transfer and letters to the hospital from relatives concerning belongings, visiting, etc.
2. Case papers
These files provide a record of a patient's treatment. They contain such information as admission and discharge details; a medical summary; progress notes; behaviour and treatment records; test results, personal effects lists and correspondence.
3. Medical case books
Entries in these volumes are arranged chronologically by date of admission. The patient's physical and mental condition before, and at the time of admission, is described and the final entry for each case notes whether the patient was discharged, transferred to another hospital or died. Other details given include: age, weight, social condition, number of children, occupation, nativity, residence, religion, form of mental disorder, supposed cause, duration of attack, previous attacks, date of last admission (if any), treatment and summary of medical certificate. Notes are then made at irregular intervals on a patient's behaviour and condition while s/he remains in the hospital.
NOTE: Medical Case Books were eventually replaced by Case Files which contain similar information.
Please consult the following AIB leaflets:
- Archives in Brief 85 Mental health records - Patient records
- Archives in Brief 86 Infirm and destitute asylum records
- Archives in Brief 87 Liverpool State Hospital and Home
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