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Building a Factual Story

What do we know?

FACT: You have a name, a burial date and an estimated age/year of birth.

FACT?: These records have been manually transcribed by volunteers such as yourself, some time ago. They had a huge task ahead of them, so every record is not 100% accurate. There will be transcription errors. A 1900s ‘7’ can easily read as a ‘1’. So we must take the initial record with a pinch of salt. The same goes for the name, it may not be accurate and may be spelt wrong. This is not the fault of anyone, simply the way it is. We do not currently have access to the original to scrutinise the original text and see if there could be an error.

There is evidence that some people in the Asylum are under false names. When admitted, the authorities may not have known a name, and the patient may not have given one. Amelia Francis being an amazing example!

Where to now?

From this initial record you would think a birth would be the first place to look, but remember these birth years could be wrong (sometimes vastly wrong if the year is transcribed wrong). Unless you have the original record to check, the first place to look would be to find the UK Lunacy Patients Admission/Discharge record for the patient to whichever Asylum they were admitted. Genealogy sites should display an original document. From here you can confirm the written name, date of discharge due to death (should be a day or so before burial in most cases), whether they came from another Asylum, etc. See our guide on: Understanding the Lunacy Register.

Find-A-Grave is also a voluntary site, and cannot be trusted 100% – only original documents can be trusted (You’re going to hear that a lot). Find-A-Grave can be a source of information, but even here there are a lot of differences to the EEHE burials list. Different transcriber, different result. Who is right?

In an ideal world, the original docs would be digitally available to us, and between us we could vote on a correct transcription for any difficult writing. That’s the future! The non-digitised Asylum records contain a wealth of very important information that we are not able to see right now.

So what do we have, the first original document we see is usually the Asylum Admission/Discharge records. This can often (but not always) be linked to a journey through various Asylums or workhouse records, but remember many lunacy patients did not necessarily come from workhouses, they came from home, prison, hospital, all sorts.

When we can link to a workhouse record this gives us more information to work on; often an occupation, sometimes family, another confirmation of supposed age or year of birth.

Next

Now we might have some more info, we might be able to link to a census record. We may know an occupation, area, and can now be more confident on age/birth year.

So far we have: Your Allocation > Admission/Discharge Records > Workhouse > Census > Birth

That should set you off on the right foot.


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