Willowbrook State School Hospital Records

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My grandfather spent his entire adult life in mental hospitals in New York State. I've managed to track his movements through the mental health system with the help of authorities from the New York State Office of Mental Health & Hygiene. My research indicates that his institutionalization began in October 1912 in the Buffalo State Hospital where he was diagnosed as schizophrenic. He was transferred to Willard State Hospital in Ovid, New York in September 1949. The record ends with his transfer to Willowbrook State School Hospital in Staten Island, New York in March 1951.

I've attempted to locate a death record for him to no avail through both the New York State and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; neither agency was able to locate a death record or burial information. Family anecdote suggests that he died in the mid to late 1960's and that when the family could not cover his transport back to his home he was laid to rest in a “potters field” cemetery. Hart Island would appear to be the most likely place of burial but a search of the records there fails as well.

Does anyone have any idea why a 63 year old mentally ill patient would be transferred to a hospital for intellectually disabled children in the first place? Does anyone have any suggestions of other approaches I could take to go about locating my grandfather’s death or burial records? Is Hart Island the only likely burial site or might his body been consigned to another cemetery?

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Quote: Thu 4th 6:19 pm
My grandfather spent his entire adult life in mental hospitals in New York State. I've managed to track his movements through the mental health system with the help of authorities from the New York State Office of Mental Health & Hygiene. My research indicates that his institutionalization began in October 1912 in the Buffalo State Hospital where he was diagnosed as schizophrenic. He was transferred to Willard State Hospital in Ovid, New York in September 1949. The record ends with his transfer to Willowbrook State School Hospital in Staten Island, New York in March 1951.

I've attempted to locate a death record for him to no avail through both the New York State and New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; neither agency was able to locate a death record or burial information. Family anecdote suggests that he died in the mid to late 1960's and that when the family could not cover his transport back to his home he was laid to rest in a “potters field” cemetery. Hart Island would appear to be the most likely place of burial but a search of the records there fails as well.

Does anyone have any idea why a 63 year old mentally ill patient would be transferred to a hospital for intellectually disabled children in the first place? Does anyone have any suggestions of other approaches I could take to go about locating my grandfather’s death or burial records? Is Hart Island the only likely burial site or might his body been consigned to another cemetery?

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Willowbrook State Hospital....
In searching for your Grandfather's death certificate, visit
New York City Municipal Archives web page.

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Willowbrook State School Hospital
My Grandmother spent spent most of her adult life at Willowbrook State School Hospital, and I cannot find any death records for her. She died approximately 1973-74. I could not get any help from the New York City Municipal Archives. Is there any place else to look?

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Quote: Sat 9th 6:52 am
My Grandmother spent spent most of her adult life at Willowbrook State School Hospital, and I cannot find any death records for her. She died approximately 1973-74. I could not get any help from the New York City Municipal Archives. Is there any place else to look?

By most state rules that is considered to be fairly recently. Have you tried vital statistics?

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In reference to your first question - I've observed many cases in which mentally ill individuals were transferred to State Schools (for the Feeble-Minded, i.e. facilities for the "mentally retarded") and vice versa.

It would seem that, particularly in the early half of the 20th century and beyond, mental illness and intellectual disability were practically interchangeable to some degree. That is an oversimplification of the facts - but, consider also the overcrowded conditions of either type of institution; that some individuals exhibited traits of both diagnoses; and that medical science in such fields were quite undeveloped compared to contemporary standards; it is easier then to understand why such a situation may have existed.

That an institution for the developmentally disabled was for "children" is a bit of a misnomer; even adults with disabilities were, at an earlier time in history, called "children;" and furthermore, such institutions, while ostensibly intended for school-aged children, were typically populated by people of all ages.

In your particular case, perhaps the patient, it was considered, might be better cared for at the latter facility rather than the former for some reason or another.
Edited On 11:09:54 PM - Fri, May 15th 2015 by Laddcurator

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"Cropcey", he could of been taken for satanic rituals.

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Willowbrook state school
As the child's of a patient I have searched for over ten years and finally have found my answers at nys archives in Albany. I have found all but 1 of 6 children which by the way we're adults who were supposed to be in foster care. Keep pushing to get your answers. I did this for my mom and my family to have some closure. Also be prepared for anything. Good luck

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Willowbrook state school
As the child's of a patient I have searched for over ten years and finally have found my answers at nys archives in Albany. I have found all but 1 of 6 children which by the way we're adults who were supposed to be in foster care. Keep pushing to get your answers. I did this for my mom and my family to have some closure. Also be prepared for anything. Good luck

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Click information available
http://www.library.csi.cuny.edu/archives/WillowbrookRG.htm

Look through this page in detail


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