Can’t find any more records of Great Aunt Jessie who lived in New York around 1880? Where is Uncle Charlie after 1900 census? The 1910 census shows Mary Lou living with her family but then nothing. Where is Mary Lou? The 1920 census has Aunt Fannie married with one child but she does not show up anywhere else. Where is Aunt Fannie?
Maybe this is why.
As shown in the video “Fighting For A Name” made by Kassie Bracken and Dan Barry (see link below) and reported in the New York Times by Dan Barry.
Colleen Spellecy, a retired schoolteacher has formed a group that is trying to restore the Willard State Psychiatric Hospital cemetery records. There are nearly 5,776 buried on the grounds that is now owned by the state of New York, the graves are marked only with a number etched on a round metal plate at ground level. The State of New York will not release the records which have the names along with the grave marker number because of New York privacy laws.
The hospital was operated from 1879 to 2000 according to this sign.
Dan Barry of the New York Times writes:
“…55,000 other people buried on the grounds of old psychiatric hospitals across New York State – many of them identified, … by numbers corresponding with names recorded in old books. This numerical system, used by other states as well, was apparently meant to spare the living and the dead from the shame of one’s surname etched in stone in a psychiatric hospital cemetery.”…
“State Office of Mental Health, which oversees some two dozen hospital cemeteries tucked in upstate corners and along busy Long Island highways, has consistently denied her request. Its officials say that a generations-old state law protects the privacy of people who died in these institutions…”
The work that is being done by Colleen Spellecy needs the genealogy community’s support. Watch the video, read the story and get involved.
Great Aunt Jessie, uncle Charlie, Miss Mary Lou and Aunt Fannie should be included on your family tree I am sure they would want you to get involved.
Jose from Clarkston, Michigan