Friday, 4 August 2017

Press Release - 40,000 ‘Lunatics’ - Scottish Genealogy Website Enables People to Discover the True Lives of their Ancestors

Logo with words purple 10cm 72dpi.jpg

40,000 ‘Lunatics’ - Scottish Genealogy Website Enables People to Discover the True Lives of their Ancestors

4 August 2017

Glasgow, Scotland – Today Scottish genealogy website move another step closer to their goal of indexing all historical Scottish mental health records from 1858 to 1915. This release means the index now has 40,000 entries from across Scotland and includes people from every walk of life.

Admission forms for John Rae Thomson MC2_1 No. 3503 image 3 section _ Facts indicated by others_ the boys called him “daft feck”.jpg
John Rae Thomson - Facts Indicated by Others - “His mother states...that the boys hooted & ran after him in the street crying “daft Jock”. (More images available in the press kit)

These historic mental health records give the story behind the facts. A census record may tell you that your great-grandmother was in an asylum, but not why she was there and that’s what we really want to know. This project, lead by Scottish Indexes, is supported by a growing team of volunteers.

Emma Maxwell, genealogist at Scottish Indexes says, “Our mission is to help people not only research their Scottish family tree, but also understand the lives of their ancestors.”
MC2_3 No. 4105 page 2 _ Question 13_ Supposed cause _  A fall on his head as a child.jpg
George Patrick Baillie - Supposed cause -  A fall on his head as a child (More images available in the press kit)

The records being indexed by Scottish Indexes are held by the National Records of Scotland (NRS) in Edinburgh. Without an index they are hugely time-consuming to search and access to the records would usually mean a trip to Edinburgh. These records contain not just names, dates and places but personal information. For example the admission form of John Rae Thomson tells us that the supposed cause of his mental health problems was ‘Premature Birth’. The same record gives his mother’s account of how boys tormented this poor 26 year-old.

Viv from Scotland says, "Although I knew that some of my relatives were in mental health institutions, the indexes at Scottish Indexes and linked original records have allowed me to find out far more about their stories. I feel that I know so much more about these people, and the information is invaluable."

Ailsa from Australia says, “I have been using Scottish Indexes for quite some time now and found many references to my own family within them. They are great for me to use from Australia.”


For further information please contact:
Emma Maxwell, Genealogist, Scottish Indexes,

Notes to the Editor

  • We have prepared a press kit containing 15 images which can be used across all media platforms (download here: These show full pages of the records and we have selected certain interesting sections of each page which we thought would be of particular interest to your readers. Each is embedded with a copyright statement (approved by the NRS) for your convenience. The examples given can be found in our index: MC7/1 p. 168  - John Rae Thomson and MC7/1 p. 173 - George Patrick Baillie

  • is run by Scottish genealogists Graham and Emma Maxwell, a husband and wife team based in East Kilbride, Glasgow, Scotland. Indexes are created by Graham and Emma with the help of a team of volunteers. All indexes are free to view and the National Records of Scotland (NRS) reference is given so users can either access the documents without charge at the NRS, or purchase the service from Scottish Indexes.

40,000 Scottish Mental Health Records

We have been working along with a very hard working team of volunteers and we have now reached a milestone in our project to index Scottish mental health records. We have indexed the first 40,000 entries.

If you have not used these records before you will be amazed by them. Sometimes the stories are sad, sometimes reassuring, but there are so many stories to tell. For example here is an excerpt from the entry of Jean McTavish or McAlpine. Jean was aged 60 and a widow, it seems that the ‘supposed cause’ of her health problem was intemperance. Below is an account of what a doctor observed. It seems she imagined herself to be only 26 years of age, and that she was a bird.

Reading these records makes the people come to life in our minds, I can almost picture poor Jean in front of the official, looking rather older than her 60 years perhaps, but all the while believing she was only 26. Granted, this record does not answer all our questions, but it makes Jean real. It tells us more than the basic records and it preserves the memory of poor Jean for her descendants.