Wednesday, October 17, 2012

South Carolina State Hospital records

Records for the South Carolina State Hospital (SCSH) or South Carolina Lunatic Asylum are available at the South Carolina State Archive.  The records have multiple parts including: admission books; committment files; personal histories and records of deaths.  Patient information is available beginning in 1828 and is spotty through 1880.
For this case study I looked for information about Rebecca Spooner who was listed as a resident of the SCSH in the 1900 census. 

In the ideal scenario the researcher would have the patient number. However, in this case, as in most cases, that information was not available. If the patient number is unknown try to determine the time frame the patient could have been an inmate in the hospital, through other records like the census. Each Admission book covers a certain time period so having an idea when the patient entered the hospital and when they could have left will help. 
There are two sets of admission books.  One set, record group S190025, is arranged chronologically.  The admission books we used, S190027, are organized by date of admission but within each book the records are divided by race and sex.  The admission books provide the patient number which is the key to additional records. In the case of Rebecca Spooner we only knew that she was in the hospital in 1900.  Fortunately, for us, she had only been admitted the year before so her admission information was near the 1900 census date. She was admitted on October 20, 1899 and was located in Volume 2: November 1, 1892 – December 30, 1899. Her patient number was 9075. 

With the patient number the archivist was able to locate the commitment file.  This is the record that will contain the most genealogical data.  In addition to information about the patient's symptoms the four- page typed form asked: 1. parent names, if they are alive and how they died; 2. grandparents names; 3. number and age of children; of the nearest living relative and 5.county of residence.  In the case of Spooner the researcher recognized the name of Spooner's married sister as the person requesting the commitment.
A patient history can also be obtained with the patient number.  This, in general, provides limited information.  In the case of Spooner the patient history was about one and a half pages.  It included one paragraph, from the attending physician, about her mental state and physical condition.

The State Hospital records also include a record of deaths that is strictly chronological.  Rebecca Spooner died as a patient on Oct 18, 1904.  This was listed in volume two – January 2, 1902-Dec 1914.
Not every patient will have documents in the personal history, admission files or death records.  Rebecca Spooner was a good example because she had all the documents but that is not the case for most patient records.



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Ben said...

Thank you for this post.

I am having trouble finding the SCSH records on

Any help with navigation would be appreciated.

Thank you again.

Dead Librarian said...

Hi Ben,

You will have to contact the SC State Archive and ask them to search the records. They are not available online. The SC State Hospital Cemetery Survey is online. This is a list of patients who are buried on hospital grounds. The process for accessing those records is the same. Here is a link to the survey:

Tess said...

Do you have any idea when earlier patients were buried on the grounds. The person I am researching died there August 31, 1860, but I didn't see burial or death dates that old in the survey.

Thanks so much--

Dead Librarian said...

Hi Tess,

So sorry I am answering this late. I didn't see the comment until today. No excuses just life.

The answer to your question is that the burial was likely in Elmwood Cemetery. Check pages 11-13 in the McCormick Funeral Records book published by the Chicora Foundation. here is the link:

Elmwood will not have any records. It think the Chicora info is about all there is.
Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

My mother was in the state hospital sometime during 1950's. To my knowledge she also receive Shock treatment. I was once told that their were no file from that time due to a fire. All family members have passed. Could you tell me if that is true. Or should I still search?

Dead Librarian said...

Yes, you should certainly follow through. Call Tracy at 803-898-8581. She is in Public Affairs Office at the SC Dept of Mental Health and she can direct you.