There seems to be a lot of confusion about how to get or ask for hospital records under governance by the Michigan Department of Community Health.
First, you must ask for the court order to view the records from the judge in the county that the Asylum was located. Not the county your family was living in; although, sometimes they are the same county. You call the court and ask for the name of the judge who authorizes medical record releases and then write that Judge, addressing him/her properly, for a court order for the medical records of so and so at the __________ Asylum/State Hospital. Your letter should be respectful and polite and should include your relationship to the patient, when they died, and why you feel that the records would help you (ie. to complete your family medical history). You should have a pretty good idea of when the person was there. If you are denied a court order and are willing to fight over this, then you can call back and argue with them that you will go through the process if need be to gain access to these records.
Second, the person was committed in the county in which they resided at the time and this generated probate court records. So these records fall within the county the person lived in, and this may not be the same county the asylum was in. Some counties have allowed these records to be digitized and available and you should exhaustively search the internet (including familysearch.org) for these records before you call or bother a court. I advise finding these records first as they will tell you when the person was sent to the asylum and why.
Third, if you live in state you can call your state rep or senator to assist you, and you can complain that these records are kept under lock and key but other records with private and personal data are available to anyone- such as the 1940 census. You can emphasize the importance of having these records to complete your family medical history as mental illness has an hereditary component.
Fourth, if you live out of state, you can call the state rep or senator for the district in which the Asylum was located and explain your difficulty in getting your family’s medical records for this asylum. The records are all in the State of Michigan Archives in Lansing and are under threat of destruction.
Good luck. You will need to be persistent and the records may not even tell you much.
Here is the article the kind folks at Butler County Historical Society sent me on the Sheriff’s Sale of the land in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania Joseph Elrod had inherited from his father. He loses his property in a lawsuit from James Clark.
This explains possibly why he was living with Nancy Ralston in 1850 (according to the census) yet he still owned the property. He didn’t lose it until March 1851. Now the trick is to find the court records pertaining to the lawsuit.
Darius Townsend was the only full biological brother of Mary Alice Cutler Ellison. His father Nathaniel P Townsend applied for a Civil War pension on the behalf of his supposed deceased son Darius. According to his father, Darius was killed in action at the Battle of Antietam in September of 1862. According to the government, Darius was discharged and/or deserted in October 1862. But since he never returned home and was never heard from ever again, it is safe to assume that his father had the correct information.
You will note that Nathaniel lists Darius only other family member as being: Alice Allison (sic).
Click below to view:
Below is the will dated 29 JUL 1831 for William Elrod of Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. It is located on familysearch.org.
William Elrod died 13 SEP 1831 in Elizabeth Township.
The following heirs are mentioned in the will: son Joseph, daughter Mary Mitchel, son Thomas, son William, son Muse, son Johnson, son Robert and daughter Martha Elrod. His wife Mary is also mentioned. To Joseph he left 200 acres that lay partly in Butler County and partly in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. He also left him his rifle gun and powder horn, his volume of Ferguson’s astronomy and all of the correspondence in his desk. To his wife he left his Bible with all of his family’s records inside and then this was to go to Joseph upon her death.
Why am I now researching the Elrod family? I have a pretty good feeling that Joseph was the father of my 3rd great grandmother Nancy Ralston. Somewhere in a family record Joseph is listed as having two children: Nancy born 1814 and John F. born 1818. My Nancy was born in 1814. Also, Joseph lived in Slipperyrock, Butler County, PA as of the 1840 Census. He lived there alone. He then moved in with Nancy Ralston and her family as of the 1850 Census.
Why would Nancy’s family think her name was Nancy Agnes McLane? That is what I have to work out. I also need more evidence that Joseph Elrod was Nancy’s father. Supposedly Joseph didn’t leave an estate when he passed, but he owned a lot of land. There are records somewhere and I don’t think it is coincidental that after he passed, Nancy and her family had the money to move to Iowa. What do you think?
Mary Alice Ellison was born 28 MAR 1848 in Cato, Cayuga County to Nathaniel P. Townsend and Betsey Welch.
Her birth name was Elizabeth (Betsey) Townsend. She had one brother at the time of her birth, Darius Townsend. Darius served in the Civil War for the Wisconsin 5th Infantry. He was born circa 1841 in New York.
The Cutler family and the Townsend family had many associations in Cayuga County and Onondaga County. They formed business relationships and they married each other.
Somehow, Samuel H Cutler and his wife Amanda Davis ended up with Elizabeth Townsend and they re-named her Mary Alice Cutler. Mary Alice is living with them in Elbridge, Onondaga County, New York in 1850. I have searched and searched the Surrogate Court records for this transaction and have not found it. Since, the father was alive at the time of the adoption, I don’t think they needed to go to court.
Nathaniel P. Townsend re-married very quickly to Mary Eliza Perkins (1849.) Mary Eliza was the widow of Cyrus James Gleason of Cicero, Onondaga County, New York. Cyrus and Mary had three children: Sarah Elizabeth (b.1839), Lodawiski Lovilla (1842-1922), and Edson H. (1844-1880). These children stayed with their mother and step-father and are listed on the censuses with them, sometimes as Townsend’s.
Nathaniel and Mary Eliza moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin by 1850. They had four children together. One of them was born in Cato, New York on 31 JUL 1849 and is listed as unnamed. I have a feeling this child died. The other three children were: Charles Nathaniel (b. 1851), Adonirum Elnathan (1854-1904) and Jennie Eliza (1860-1926.) The Townsend family lived in Wisconsin for many years.
You have to be very careful when looking on ancestry.com about this family as people are listing the children with the wrong parents.
Nathaniel died sometime after 1880 (approx. 1894) in Ashton, Osceola County, Iowa where his daughter Jennie was living (Jennie Glazier.) There is a lot yet for me to learn about this Nathaniel P. Townsend- including who his parents were.
When Mary Alice died, her son listed her parents as being:
N.P. Townsend and B. A. Court
Which is partially true.
Her mother was Betsey A. Welch, the daughter of Maria Polly Court and John Welch. When Polly Welch died in 1863, she left her grandchildren Darius and Elizabeth (Betsey) Townsend some money. Maria Polly Court was the daughter of John Court and Lydia Wright of Cato, Cayuga County, New York. This mistake of using the Court name, as the mother’s maiden name, is actually the only reason I was able to figure this mystery out. A very good mistake indeed.
Below are a selection of the papers from Polly Welch’s estate file in Cayuga County, New York:
My great-grandparents William and Bridget Butler had 8 children. William was born in 1866 in Linn County, Iowa to Tobias Butler and Bridget Burke. Tobias came from County Tipperary, Ireland. His mother died when he was five years old and is buried at St John’s Cemetery in Franklin Township, Linn County, Iowa. The Butler’s moved to Detroit in 1929.
Bill Butler, William Edward, was born 30 OCT 1898 in Iowa. He married Helen Adams (of Pinconning, MI) on 14 JUL 1952. He owned cabins and a gas station in Sand Point, Michigan near Caseville and then went into real estate with the “Red Hat Realty.” He and Helen did not have children. Bill died 31 OCT 1959 in Pigeon, Michigan at Scheurer Hospital. He drove a double decker city bus in Detroit from 1929 through the 1930’s.
Bridget Butler nee Carroll arrived in America when she was just 20 years old. She was a Roman Catholic from County Armagh in Northern Ireland.
Maxine Leona Butler was the daughter of Leo Anthony Butler and Pearl V. Webber. Here Pearl and Maxine are sitting with my grandmother Marjorie Butler Ralston, the sixth child of Will and Bridget Butler.
Richard Tobias Butler was the oldest child of the family, born 21 JAN 1893 in Belle Plain, Iowa. In the picture he is with his wife Arlene Therrien and daughter Doris Ann. They lived in Detroit. Richard retired in the mid 1950’s to the Golden West Hotel in San Diego, CA due to the effects of a mustard gas attack in World War One. He died 26 MAR 1961 in San Diego. His wife’s brother Robert Therrien married his sister, Gertrude Louise Butler.