Dirk Jans Bode: Receipt of Mental Health Records!

elginA week ago I received a wonderful and early Christmas present!  I was informed that Circuit Court Judge Villa in Kane County, Illinois, had agreed to release the mental health records of my great grand uncle Dirk Jans Bode to me.  I have blogged before about Dirk who was a patient  in the Illinois asylums for the insane between the years of 1872 to 1905 when he died at Bartonville. (See Dirk Jans Bode: Requesting Mental Health Records.)

This weekend I received the documents from his time in the Elgin and Jacksonville asylums.

The judge, however, has placed restrictions on my usage of the material.  I can only reference or quote the content in scholarly/historical work or in my presentations.  So, as much as I would like to think of my blog as “scholarly”—it’s a tough sell!  Therefore, I will not be discussing the specific content in this blog.

I previously had wondered about who brought him to the asylum-just the sheriff?  –his brother (my great grandfather)?  Was Dirk ever well enough to work on the farm? What were the exact dates he went into Jacksonville and how long did he stay until he entered Elgin? What is “chronic mania,” the diagnosis in the DDD [1], and how did it manifest itself?  The DDD said he had two attacks–what did that mean?  I certainly haped the case book, a ledger for the year 1897 to 1898, would include notes about his condition over time. And, of course, I wondered if his behavior was so bad that he needed restraints.  He died at a rather young age, 55–what did he die of?  Neither the State nor the county has a death certificate for him.   So, lots of questions for which I was hoping for answers.

So, if you want more information, you will have to wait until I complete the article I wrote earlier this year and get it published or wait until I present on procurement of mental health records in Illinois. I suspect the article won’t get completed for a few months (I have a little on my plate right now! 🙂 ) and I have never been asked to make a presentation on mental health records procurement, so that is “down the road.” It would make a good talk.

I was hoping I could share with you what I found in the records, but I cannot.  However, I am very excited with what I did receive!

And, just so you know–the first thing I did was transcribe the documents.  Some of them are hard to read because the copies are bad but the handwriting is beautiful and generally easy to read.  I was not provided with great source information.  Some of the sheets were stapled out of order and one appeared to have the date column on the left side not copied, rendering it impossible to determine where it fit in the sequence of the other pages of the report.  One asylum contributed no documents but the response says they are still looking.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: not too much.  I have written a lot of posts in the past week and a half.

[1] 1880 U.S. census, Kane County, Illinois, Dependent, Delinquent and Defective non-population Schedule, Elgin, Northern Illinois Asylum for the Insane, Dirk J. Bode; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 15 November 2014), citing NARA micropublication Roll .

[2] Photo  of the Northern Illinois Asylum for the Insane, c. 1882, Elgin, Illinois, is from the collection of Bill Briska, Elgin, Illinois, who granted me permission for its use.


10 comments on “Dirk Jans Bode: Receipt of Mental Health Records!

  1. Lynn Goucher says:

    Wow! Looking forward to reading more!

  2. Gayla Nieminen says:

    Thanks for the info in this and previous posts, Jill! You’ve encouraged me to apply for my great-grandfather’s records in Michigan during the same era.

  3. Janice says:

    How exciting Jill. Hope to hear more in a future post!

  4. Grace Keir says:

    I have a grand uncle who died at an asylum in Iowa. Someone else in the family tried to get information, but no luck. I may have to try and see if I can find our more. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Jill Morelli says:

      I do not know the rules for Iowa. Each state is different. I hope you will check into it. To me, it feels like I have released Dirk from the darkness. Have a happy holiday and say hello to Richard for me.

  5. Barry Janssen says:

    Jill, Exciting news for sure. I think one of Dirk Jans Bode’s sisters (Hilke H) married Weet O Janssen who is my great great uncle (I think). I am a novice at this but have received a lot of help from the Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America. Look forward to seeing the results of all of your hard work.

    • Jill Morelli says:

      Yes, you have the right family. We are cousins. I am glad OGSA has been a help to you. It is a terrific organization and I hope you will consider attending our 2016 conference probably to be held in early August 2016. If you need additional information about Weet etc.I have more, but I post most of my information on Rootsweb, so I suggest you go there first.

  6. Rachelle says:

    Jill, I have been following your search for these records closely to see if you were able to get them. Congratulations! I have 3 distant relatives that were at Eloise (Michigan) in the 1920-1940’s and hope to one day get additional information on what they were there for. Look forward to your to reading your article when it is published.

  7. Mark Stickle says:

    Last year I went through a very similar process to obtain the records of my great grandmother who died in the Indiana State Hospital at Madisonville in the early 1920s after 13 years of confinement. She had died more than 10 years before my mother was born, and her husband (my great grandfather) had divorced her and married a younger woman prior to the commencement of the ‘commitment’ proceedings. I always suspected that her story was tragic, and had always wanted to learn more about her. But by the time I came along anyone who might have known her was dead, and the stigma associated with confinement in an “insane asylum” seemed to surround her memory like a shroud.
    I am so happy that I was able to obtain the records. I now know so much more about her . . . even now, tears come to my eyes as I recall the story that unfolded in that file of official documents, medical reports, court papers, and letters. I can’t ever take away the pain she suffered, and I can’t tell her I love her. But I can thank God for her life, and I can make sure that her many descendants know what a gentle, giving woman she was.

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