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Whatever happened to Gt Aunt Jane?

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ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


lancashireAnn Report 1 Mar 2013 13:47

in 1901 the Jane living in Rainhill Asylum was definitely a 'nurse on the insane' not an 'attendant'


lancashireAnn Report 1 Mar 2013 14:22

this could perhaps be useful to you when it is all done or maybe the staff would do a look up for your Mary (don't know if they charge).

Repository Lancashire Archives
Level SubSeries
Title Reception Orders
Description These 33,000 orders comprise the most complete series of records relating to patients at Whittingham Asylum, with only a few gaps. They are currently being indexed by volunteers and added to our electronic catalogue at

The reception orders for Whittingham provide a valuable record of patients and a great deal of information about their background as well as evidencing contemporary attitudes to mental illness. Whittingham was built to relieve overcrowding in the existing county asylums at Prestwich, Lancaster and Rainhill. When the hospital opened in 1873 most of the patients for the first few years were transferred from other Lancashire and North West asylums and institutions; the reception orders for these patients are copies relating to their admission to these other institutions at an earlier date. The date given in this list is the date of the order for removal and transfer to Whittingham.

Most patients at Whittingham were 'paupers', or chargeable to a Poor Law Union, and were admitted by 'summary reception order'. They were taken before a Justice of the Peace by one of the Relieving Officers of the Poor Law Union, or by the Police, and following verbal examination of the patient and consideration of observations provided by a medical practitioner the JP would issue the order for admission.

More details about the legal background to this process and the information contained in reception orders may be found in Model Guide to Lancashire Mental Hospital Records, Garside and Jackson, University of Salford - a copy is available in the Record Office searchroom.


AnnMac Report 1 Mar 2013 21:03

The numerous male staff at Rainhill were called "attendants on the insane", the females were called "nurses on the insane". I doubt that difference in terminology indicates the female staff were any more medically trained than the men. I've discovered that Rainhill Asylum became the largest mental asylum in Europe by the 1900's, with over 2000 inmates. I'm trying to find out whether Merseyside Record Office, which according to the National archives site holds some records for the hospital, would have staff records, but their enquiry service is shut down for a while until they relocate to a new library.
Meanwhile I might buy the Mckeand Sharples marriage certificate in case that tells me something useful about Jane - or eliminates that line of enquiry.
Is there any way of knowing whether she emigrated, or have you kind people already ruled that possibilty out?
I'm still getting my head round the idea that Mary may have been a rescued woman in London but ended up in a mental hospital close to the rest of her family back in Lancashire. Needless to say no-one has ever mentioned that - but equally they never mentioned that Auntie Faith had a glass eye! Thank you for the suggestion on how to take this thread forward: not this week end I think as I have living family to visit!
I'm so glad that it is no longer the role of JPs to deide whether people should be committed to mental institutions - I'm a JP and it's hard enough deciding whether or not to send proven criminals to prison!


Mary Report 1 Mar 2013 21:49

John Joseph Sharples 1866 Blackburn died 1922 Probate to widow Janet.
Janet Mckeand born Scotland @ 1864

Janet Sharples born @ 1862 died 1946 Blackburn.

1911 37,Regent Road Blackburn
Janet Mckeand age 47 single born Scotland.



MarieCeleste Report 2 Mar 2013 09:25

AnnMac, the pedant in me must point out that I stated on page 2 "Rescue homes weren't necessarily about "fallen" women, there could be health issues of varying sorts."

Some sort of mental illness may have caused Mary to be there and then her family took her to an establishment nearer home. All conjecture of course, as we don't know for definite that the 1946 death is actually her - the only way would be to buy the death certificate

Deaths Mar 1946
McKeand Mary 61 Amounderness 8e 802

If your next mission is to find out why Auntie Faith had a glass eye then I'll pass on that one! ;-) :-)


lancashireAnn Report 2 Mar 2013 11:50

I'll pass on that too MC!

It had escaped my notice that it was the females descibed as nurese & the males as attendants on that census.

re Whittingham and Mary - if you can't get any info by emailing the Lancashire records office (or they charge too much) and you are still stuck in a week or two, pm me and I may have time to call in by then. I have not been for ages due to other commitments. I haven't even done any of my own research for some time.

Just ask them if the reception orders are available for public viewing first.


lancashireAnn Report 2 Mar 2013 12:12

googling Westminster House the name given on the 1911 census for the rescue home, as far as I can make out was a home for 'homeless girls' which perhaps accounts for why all the 'inmates' appear to have a job. Perhaps they were described as inmates as the description boarder would imply paying rent. Only guessing.

Maybe Mary was staff at Whittingham rather than an inmate. She was buried in the family grave rather than in the grounds of Whittingham or Goosnargh churchyard.


AnnMac Report 3 Mar 2013 12:56

Thanks to one and all for suggestions re Jane and Mary.
It helps to know that Janet McKeand/Sharples was born in Scotland c. 1862. That seems to pretty well rule her out as my Gt aunt Jane on grounds of wrong age, wrong birth location - and the name Janet v. Jane. I think the 47 yr old Janet McKeand death in 1911 is also not a match on grounds of age discrepancy of nearly 20 yrs, wrong forename detail - plus it does seem that other family deaths (and marriages and christenings) turn up in the Garston Parish registers .
I think the next steps for Jane are possibly finding her father's will and investigating the Rainhill Hospital staff records in a few weeks time . Is there also any way to find out if she emigrated?
The records you've dug up re Mary seem, by comparison, to ring true. The 1911 census has her age a bit younger than I'd have expected (she was born Dec 1884, baptised Jan 1885) so she should have been 27 in 1911 rather than 25, but she could've been confused. The place of birth is spot on despite being recorded by a London enumerator who'd probably never heard of Garston. Being alone and in need of rescuing (from poverty, illness or whatever- I've not used the 'fallen woman' epithet for this! ) by the West London Mission in 1911 could also fit with the family folk memory of the girls from the first marriage being pushed out of home by their step mother. And if she did end up back in Lancs in a mental hospital, that fits with branches of my family being apparently unaware of her existence - that generation tended to be quite buttoned up about misfortune eg Faith's glass eye (which was childhood cancer, by the way, and her father had lost an eye to the same cause, so you'll be glad to know I don't need your help in researching that one!) It sounds as if the best way to find out where she might have been between 1911 and burial in 1946 is to research admissions to Whittingham Hospital.Are there also electoral registers that can be searched for post census or between census dates?
But I'll have to park all this for a while as on the way home from visiting son and mother yesterday, a car drove into the back of mine. On top of the hassle factor of a crushed bumper and a rather sore neck, the driver gave me a duff phone number, plus his car apparently wasn't insured. AAARGH!! My current research efforts are going into trying to trace him! Facebook could be his downfall.


MarieCeleste Report 3 Mar 2013 13:14

Oh dear Ann, hope you're neck isn't too sore. Could the miscreant be caught and end up before your bench?


lancashireAnn Report 3 Mar 2013 14:41

that would indeed be justice MC

Hope you are OK AnnMac


Potty Report 4 Mar 2013 13:04

Sorry to hear about your accident. Ann, hope you aren't feeling too sore.