Winnebago County Asylum, County Home and Poor Farm Records, 1867-1969

Scope and Content Note

The records document the administration of the institution through most of its existence, information about the population of the institution in general, and limited information about individual patients. This series can be used for research on medical history, the history of public assistance agencies, and medical, legal, and social practices related to the treatment of the insane, the aged, and the poor. Researchers seeking information on individual patients should begin with the various inmate records (Archives Volumes 27-38). When requesting a volume, use the “Archives Volume” number.

The collection is arranged into two main series: ADMINISTRATIVE RECORDS and PATIENT RECORDS.

The ADMINISTRATIVE RECORDS deal with the management of the institution and consist of two subseries: administrative minutes and financial records. The minutes, 1889-1956, contain proceedings of meetings of the Board of Trustees as well as statements of funds and letters to the board. Topics include the hiring of doctors and superintendents of buildings and also repairs and costs to run buildings. Despite using the Asylum letterhead for correspondence, during the period documented in these records, the Board appeared to oversee both the asylum and the poor house/county home.

The financial records date mainly 1913-1951 and contain various volumes that record accounts payable and receivable. The Journals, 1894-1911, contain mainly payroll expenditures. The Payroll records, 1944-1946, include payroll date, name of employee, board, wages, tax and net wages earned. The volumes also include job descriptions for full time employees as well as their addresses. County Asylum/farm employees are listed on pages 1-46 and County Home employees are listed on pages 47-51. Expenditures, 1904-1951, cover the costs of products and services and appear to be for the Asylum only, but they could also cover the County Home. The voucher registers, 1913-1951, include payroll, expenditures, transfers (includes transfers/credits to County Home). The ledgers, 1913-1951, sometimes called “Transfer General Ledgers,” include accounts for land improvements, sewage disposal, machinery and equipment repair/funds, livestock, utilities, and more. Information includes date, description, debits, credits, and balances. Entries are arranged by account number and thereunder by date. Some information is duplicated throughout these books. The Cash receipts, 1913-1951, list payments made to Asylum for care of inmates, agricultural items, overaged bills, interest from accounts, and more.

PATIENT RECORDS consist of two subseries: financial and population records. Patient financial records include records relating to patients personal finances and property. The inmates Cash Ledger, 1914-1948, includes a record of charges made against inmates' accounts for clothing, postage, food, burial costs and other goods and services. Also included are deposits made to their accounts and credits for work done as well as lists of property confiscated from inmates. Entries are arranged in segments by account number. Clothing Transfers, 1900-1910 & 1930-1942, record clothing given to residents and its value and lists the home community of the resident, possibly for billing purposes. Entries in Archives Volume 25 appear to have no discernable order while entries in Archives Volume 26 are alphabetical by the inmate’s last name. After some investigation, the first volume (Archives Volume 25), at least, is believed to be from the County Home.

Patient population records provide mostly biographical information and to a lesser extent document the care and treatment of the inmates. The Reference Book (Asylum), 1871, 1880s–1914, appears to function as an index. Entries are arranged by the first letter of the surname and list name, date of admission, nationality, age, county of residence, remarks on transfer or parole, returns, from who admitted or returned to. Many individuals have multiple entries distinguished only by a change in age. These entries are NOT necessarily the only record of time spent in the asylum, however, as evidence shows some inmates were there longer than the multiple entries suggest.

Record of Inmates (Asylum), 1880s-1900, record patient name, age, nationality, admission date, cause of invalidity, when discharged, county to which care is charged, and death date or comments on the individual. Archives Volume 28 contains inmates from other counties with entries grouped in sections by county of origin, thereunder at times by gender and thereunder alphabetically by name. Archives Volume 29 contains inmates from Winnebago County and are divided into two main sections by gender and thereunder alphabetically by name. Inmate Record Books (Asylum), 1895-1935, include similar information including name, personal history, relatives, short family history, nationality, aliment, criminal history and medical history. One of these volumes includes individuals who were not discharged; the other includes those who died, were discharged, paroled, or transferred, and include the date of those events.

Entries in the Inmate Record Books (Poor Home/County Home), 1867-1939, are arranged by home community and thereunder by year. Entries include name, age, nationality, when received, cause of invalidity, discharge date, death date, remarks, last residence and expenses, 1867-1939. The Charges for Care of Inmates/Transfers (Poor Home/County Home), 1939-1953, book consists of two sections. The first section, “Care of Inmates/Monthly Time Records,” lists inmates by community, dates of admission, date of departure, how many weeks/days in residence and if died or released, 1943-1953. The second section primarily records transfers and/or deaths, listing inmates' religion, age, marital status, trade/profession, remarks and nearest relation when transferred, 1939-1945.

The Doctor's Call Book (Asylum), 1914-1955 records doctor visits to sick inmates and includes patients name, date, diagnosis, and treatment including any medicine prescribed. This volume documents the extent of the 1918 influenza pandemic at the Asylum.

The Movement of Population (Asylum and County Home) volumes, 1914-1969, records individuals moving in and out of the two institutions. Entries include date of movement, patient name, actual number of inmates in institution on that date, inmate's county of residence, from where they were received and how discharged; if death, the record includes date and time of death. The Asylum's Day and Night Watch Log Books, 1951-1964, list general activities of a ward during day and night shifts and, at times, specific patient status often by the hour. Log books are organized by gender, ward and by time of day. Day books tend to be for hours 7AM – 7PM, night from 7PM to 7AM. Earlier years (before October of 1960) are more detailed. A volume of “outside” watch book includes observations of the grounds at night. The Visitors' Log (Asylum), 1953-1961 includes visitor's name, address, and the name of the patient visited.