To research Mary’s story I needed to start with her death certificate. This stated that she was a spinster aged 62, a domestic servant and had lived at 3 Cambridge Terrace, Burnt Ash Lane, Lee.
Knowing that she had died at Long Grove Asylum, I found her admission record. From there, I could trace that she had been transferred from one asylum to another since 1878, so had spent about half of her life in institutional care.
Her records were as follows:
30 Jan 1878 admitted to Kent Asylum Discharged 1 February 1901
1 February 1901 admitted to Chartham Discharged 22 March 1901
22 March 1901 admitted to Bexley Discharged 2 November 1906
2 November 1906 admitted to York Discharged 7 October 1907
7 October 1907 admitted to Long Grove Died 19 August 1910
I could not find Mary in the 1901 Census, but happily my reviewer had more success and found an M. Brogan, domestic servant, born in Ireland and a patient living at the London County Asylum, Dartford.
In 1891, at the Kent County Lunatic Asylum in Maidstone there is an ‘M.B.’, female born 1849 Lewisham, a domestic servant and her infirmity is described as ‘mania’.
A further 10 years back to 1881, in the same institution is a Mary Brogan, b.1848 Lewisham, a domestic servant cook with an infirmity described as ‘lunatic’.
I found Mary in the 1871 Census, living as a servant at 17 Leyland Road, Lee, Lewisham. She has a middle name of ‘Susan’, the only time it is used in any records. She was born in 1846 in Ireland. The family she works for are spinster sisters, Jane Mary and Ellen Dysart who were also born in Ireland.
To confirm that this is the correct Mary Brogan, I looked for the Dysart sisters in the 1881 census and found Jane living at 3 Cambridge Terrace, Lee. This is the same address mentioned on Mary’s death certificate. Her birth recorded in the Asylum as being at Lewisham would appear to be wrong.
The Dysart sisters were part of a large Londonderry family and were not in England before the 1871 census. Did they bring Mary with them from Ireland?
There are two Mary Brogan entries in the 1861 Census, born in Ireland about 1846 (I have used the earlier date as it is more likely to be correct in the 1871 census). They are both in Scotland and I eliminated them by tracing their subsequent marriage and poor law entries.
It seems that Mary arrived in England between 1861 and 1871. In the future it may be possible to do further research into the Kent Asylum records that are kept in Maidstone. Until then, with no further birth details other than ‘Ireland’, the parentage and early life of Mary remain a mystery.