Before I knew anything about my family’s ties to Norwich State Hospital, all I had were the brief stories Mom told me about her family. To understand why I became obsessed with uncovering the family secrets, you have to understand how frustrated I was for most of my life with the lack of details about the family’s past. It starts with where my mother came from. Continue reading Norwich State Hospital and My Family, Part 1: Backstory
I am pleased to have been asked to speak about my research at the Otis Library in Norwich, Connecticut. The talk will take place on Monday, October 28, 2019 at 6:00 p.m. Follow the link below for more details.
I regret that I have not been posting new material on this blog in the past few months. Developing this talk has taken up much of my writing time. In addition, I gave my first talk on my historical research into Aspin Hill Memorial Park, a.k.a Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery earlier this month. You can learn about this project at my other blog, Pet Cemetery Stories.
I hope to get back to blogging after I have delivered my talk at Norwich at the end of this month. Thanks for staying with me, and I hope some of my subscribers will be able to come hear me.
This is just a quick post to let everyone know that I was recently interviewed by Lisa Louise Cooke, of the Genealogy Gems podcast.
It was my second appearance on the Genealogy Gems podcast, the first having occurred last year.
Lisa Louise Cooke is more than just a podcast host. She is an acclaimed expert in genealogy who travels extensively to teach research techniques at conferences, libraries, historical societies, etc. I consider it an honor to be asked to appear on her podcast more than once.
In Alice’s Story Part 2, I wrote about the Exeter School, formerly known as the Rhode Island School for the Feeble-Minded, where Alice spent the last twenty years of her life. In this final installment, I conclude the story which began in Alice’s Story Part 1.
When I think of my great-aunt Alice Tillotson’s story, I feel sad for her. She was abandoned at a state institution and forgotten by her family. But was she? Surely my grandfather, not yet ten years old when she was taken away, must have missed his sister and childhood companion. When Grandpa showed Mom, then only eight years old, the photograph of Alice, it might have been around the time she died in 1933. Perhaps he heard of her death somehow, and was motivated to find the photograph of the two of them together. If that is the case, then I think he never forgot his sister, and her death filled him with sadness and regret. Continue reading Alice’s Story, Part 3: Final Resting Place
In Part 1 of Alice’s story, I wrote about my great-aunt Alice Tillotson, who was a teenager when she was dropped off at the Oaklawn School for Girls around 1902. After she turned 21, she was transferred to the State Alms House. In 1913, she was admitted to the Rhode Island School for the Feeble-Minded in Exeter, Rhode Island. It was there that she spent the rest of her life. Continue reading Alice’s Story, Part 2: The Exeter School
Mom was a young girl of eight or nine when she first heard about her aunt Alice Tillotson. (This would have been about 1933.) Grandpa was looking at a photograph from his childhood, in which he was six years old and standing next to his sister, Alice, who was about fifteen. Mom asked her father why she had never met his sister, and Grandpa replied that Alice had been put in an institution for the “feeble-minded” many years earlier. In 2012, when I began researching mom’s family tree, I came across my great-aunt Alice and was touched by her sad story. Continue reading Alice’s Story, Part 1
At first it was dead ancestors that drew me to cemeteries. Once I started researching my family history, I began to feel connected to them through their stories. I was particularly interested in mother’s family, who emigrated from Quebec to New England in the late 19th century. My curiosity was piqued by the high incidence of mental illness and institutionalization among the women in the family. I was even fascinated by the occasional bad behavior of certain relatives. I visited my first ancestral graves not long after I began work on the family history in 2012. Continue reading The Allure of Cemeteries: Introduction
Every genealogist has one; a brick wall in their research through which they are unable to break. Mine is my great-great-grandmother, Rosalie Lapointe. I have come to the conclusion that she did not want people to know where she came from, so she made sure to cover her tracks.
Continue reading Rosalie Lapointe: My Brick Wall
Readers of this blog sometimes ask me how they can find a records for their own mentally ill ancestor. I try to answer these questions to the best of my knowledge. I want to share what I know with others, and it seems more efficient to do it in a blog post than in many emails to individuals. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy hearing from my readers, and will respond as time allows. My goal for this article is to have something useful to point to if a reader has a question about their mentally ill ancestor. Continue reading Researching Your Mentally Ill Ancestor
In July 1908, my great-grandmother Graziella Metthe was committed to Norwich State Hospital, diagnosed with manic-depressive psychosis. In the months leading up to her commitment, she was living with her family in a shed. Once she was hospitalized, her four children (including my grandmother Beatrice) were left in the care of her parents, Pierre and Azilda Bonneau. Continue reading What To Do About the Children?