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Family historian Jill Morelli enlightened the genealogical community by posting her experience of obtaining the records of an ancestor who died in 1905.
“Submitted by Jill Morelli on Sunday, March 29, 2015 to Newberry Genealogy Blog.
In August 2014, I requested the mental health records held at Elgin and the State of Illinois Archives on my great-great-uncle who died at Bartonville/Peoria in 1905. I received them in October 2014. Here are my findings:
1. I first tried to request them myself. This did not work and was told later that it will never work.
2. I hired Michael Kalland (lawyer in Elgin, Illinois) to petition the court.
3. I found out or already knew that Elgin records were still held in Elgin, and the other two asylums where my ancestor had resided (Jacksonville and Bartonville) were held at the state archives. Mr. Kalland asked for all Elgin and state records held. (Both county and state records can be requested through the county circuit court.)
4. We had two reasons for asking for the records and I do not know which was the most acceptable to the judge (or perhaps neither was effective): continuing mental health history of the family or my scholarly pursuits in writing a paper. I had written the paper with the information I had found publicly (an amazing amount) but with gaps of information that I was hoping would be provided by the information requested.
5. Mr. Kalland and I had conversations concerning the records we hoped to receive, what I could do with them and discussed that if the judge was unwilling to release the 110 year old records with no restrictions, what restrictions I could live with. Mr. Kalland was successful in the request for the judge to sign the petition requesting the records. Upon receipt of the documents, the judge reviewed them and released them to Mr. Kalland who conveyed them to me. I have some restrictions – I must confine my use of the records to my formal presentations and scholarly writing. (I am a family historian who lectures and writes.) This is quite acceptable to me.
I hope this helps others in the future. If you wish to discuss this with me you can contact me at jkmorelliatgmaildotcom…and I figure you know how to translate that into an address.”
Ms. Morelli clarified a few points:
Her ancestor was institutionalized at Elgin State Hospital (Kane County), Jacksonville State Hospital (Morgan County), and Bartonville/Peoria State Hospital (Stephenson County). Her attorney made one request for the three hospitals in Kane County Circuit Court. That was possible because Elgin State Hospital records are held in Elgin, and the records of Jacksonville and Bartonville are held at the Illinois State Archives in Springfield. Ms. Morelli did not request the commitment records. That would have entailed a separate filing in Stephenson County.
• Ms. Morelli provided a draft of her scholarly paper to the judge. This contained the details necessary to request the records, such as the approximate dates of residence at each institution.
• The judge requested the files from three institutions. Two, Jacksonville and Elgin, supplied information consisting of admittance information and (mostly) annual notes on her ancestor’s condition, for approximately ten of the thirty years he spent in asylums. Peoria State Hospital never sent any records from Bartonville.
Many thanks for Ms. Morelli for sharing her successful court case and helping others, now and in the future. As she notes, “Every person’s situation is different.” Use her experience as a guide for pursuing state hospital records.
By Grace Dumelle, Genealogy and Local History Assistant