A 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 , 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.
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.
 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 .
 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.