5 Replies Latest reply on Nov 1, 2021 11:19 AM by Rebecca Collier

    Seeking commitment records of Joseph French

    Larry French Wayfarer

      My grandfather, Joseph Preston French, disappeared many years ago and recently I discovered that he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, St Elizabeth's in Washington, DC.  The date he was admitted, 4-10-1929 and the date he was discharged (date of death), 10-18-1945.  I contacted the hospital to get medical records and was told those records had been purged.  I also requested a death certificate from the Vital Records Division in DC and was told they had no record of a death certificate.  I could not find where he had been buried either.  I don't know but also suspect he might be buried in the St Elizabeth's cemetery but can find no record of that anywhere.  What I need help with is how do I make a FOIA request for the legal proceedings for his admittance and placement of St Elizabeth's hospital.  From the little information that I have gleaned, his wife might have placed him there.  It is my understanding that there must be a hearing to declare a person legally incompetent in order commit someone involuntarily to a psychiatric hospital.  1)  How do you locate the court records that found him incompetent.  Since this has been more than 75 years, these records are available to the public.   And the second request, does anyone know how to gain access to the St Elizabeth's cemetery and/or records to confirm this is where he was buried (or not).  Thank you so much for your help.  This History Hub has helped immensely in my search.  

        • Re: Seeking commitment records of Joseph French
          Rebecca Collier Ranger

          Dear Mr. French,

           

          Thank you for posting your request on History Hub!

           

          We searched the National Archives Catalog and located the Registers of Cases, 1855 - 1963 in the Records of St. Elizabeths Hospital (Record Group 418) that list the case number; date of admission; name, age, sex, race, marital status, birthplace, religion, and occupation of patient; and the basis for admission to the hospital. Admissions through 1936 also give a tentative diagnosis for each case.Only one volume of the registers has been digitized. The registers serve as an index to the Case Files of Patients, 1855 - ca. 1950 in Record Group 418 that includes all available medical case files of patients admitted to the hospital from 1855 through 1900. After 1900, the hospital only maintained a sampling of case files in 5 year increments (1905, 1910, 1915, etc.). Case files for individuals who were not admitted to the hospital in those specific years were disposed of by the hospital. For more information about the non-digitized records, please contact the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) at archives1reference@nara.gov. We were unable to locate records of the West or East Cemeteries at St. Elizabeth's Hospital.

           

          We also located Records Relating to the District of Columbia, 1906 - 1946 in Record Group 418 that pertain to subjects such as the commitment and care of indigent insane from the District, lunacy proceedings, legislation, etc. These records may assist you in determining how your grandfather was committed. For more information about these non-digitized records, please contact RDT1.

           

          Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and pursuant to guidance received from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), NARA has adjusted its normal operations to balance the need of completing its mission-critical work while also adhering to the recommended social distancing for the safety of NARA staff. As a result of this re-prioritization of activities, you may experience a delay in receiving an initial acknowledgement as well as a substantive response to your reference request from RDT1. We apologize for this inconvenience and appreciate your understanding and patience.

           

          Death certificates from 1874-1945 are located at the DC Archives. Please email archives@dc.gov for more information. 

           

          We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!

           

          1 person found this helpful
            • Re: Seeking commitment records of Joseph French
              Larry French Wayfarer

              Thank you for such a prompt reply to my question.  I appreciate your suggestion .The problem I have with this information, I don't know how to access or how to contact the National Archives and if I did, I don't know what to do.  Could you give me the steps for retrieving this information.  Also, I'm sorry but I have no idea of how to contact "RDT1" or what RDT1 is.  What is this and how do I acquire the information about my grandfather?

               

              And about St Elizabeth's cemetery, could you give me a few leads of who I could possibly get in touch with about finding if my grandfather might be buried there?

               

              Oh, and by the way Rebecca, who are you and why are you being so kind to help me?  Thank you again.

               

                • Re: Seeking commitment records of Joseph French
                  Rebecca Collier Ranger

                  Dear Mr. French,

                   

                  Thank you for posting your follow-up request on History Hub!

                   

                  RDT1 is the office symbol for the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference as provided in our previous response. The office symbol was used instead of including the full name of the unit each time it was referenced. The contact information for the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) is the unit’s email address - archives1reference@nara.gov. When you contact the unit, please provide a copy of our reply when you ask for a search of the registers that have not been digitized.

                   

                  The records of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in the custody of the National Archives do not include those of the cemeteries. As stated in our previous response, please check with the DC Archives via email at archives@dc.gov for a search of your grandfather’s death certificate. It may include where he was buried.

                   

                  All of us who respond to History Hub requests from the National Archives have an icon (Expert) after our names.

                   

                  We hope this is helpful. Best of luck with your family research!

                   

              • Re: Seeking commitment records of Joseph French
                Alice Lane Pioneer

                Hi Larry,

                In case you do not have, here is the marriage record for Joe and Addie found on familysearch.org

                family search is a free website, you just need to register to us

                Addie Lavinder in entry for Joe French, "Virginia, Bureau of Vital Statistics, County Marriage Registers, 1853-1935" • FamilySearch

                 

                Alice Lane

                Research Volunteer

                  • Re: Seeking commitment records of Joseph French
                    Larry French Wayfarer

                    Hi Alice,  Thank you so much.  I had forgotten about having signed into FamilySearch quite a while back.  At your suggestion, I tried it again but my log in or something isn't working and I'll have to try it again when I have more time to fiddle with it.  I do have a copy of their marriage certificate.  Thank you so much for taking the time to research this.  Do you any idea how to access commitment records or any of the legal hearing type info?

                     

                    Again, thank you for your kindness to research this for our family.

                     

                    Larry French