Finding Dirk: Insanity in the 19th Century

Finding Dirk: Insanity in the 19th Century


by Jill Morelli, CG

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Finding Dirk: Insanity in the 19th Century


Do have an Aunt Mabel that disappears or who no one in the family talks about? Perhaps she was committed as insane. As the west was settled the disassociation of individuals from family members meant that home care for the insane was less of an option. The states assumed the responsibility of care, resulting in many state-run institutions established in the post-1850 era.   This presentation will explore the history of treatment of the “insane” and how it changed. Using Dirk Jans Bode as our case study, confined to an asylum for 27 years in Illinois, we will compare the physical conditions of the confinement and types of diagnoses and various treatments and how they changed into the 20th century. The wealth of documentation in the public records will be identified and information from public and restricted sources will be compared. The process of obtaining the mental health records through the courts will be outlined.


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Presenter: Jill Morelli, CG

Jill Morelli, CG is a "Roots" genealogist, becoming interested in family history in the 1970's with the Alex Haley show. At that time, she just collected "stuff." After a hiatus during which she had a family and volunteered in her community, Jill came back to genealogy with a vengeance in February 2002 and a total commitment to "doing it right." She attended conferences, institutes and read articles that would improve her skills as a genealogist. Jill started lecturing on genealogy topics in 2013; however, her background includes extensive lecturing associated with her vocation of architecture to large (300+) and small groups for 40+ years. Jill is a lecturer, writer and professional genealogist and has a blog at about her experiences of being "on the clock," house histories and other topics of interest.

Jill Morelli, CG