Several Branches Short of a Full Tree

A Genealogy & Family Tree Blog

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Garrison Smith Welch

Whether you descend from one of these surnames or are just interested in genealogical adventures and stories of discovery, welcome!

Are You Nuts?

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED if you are a few genes short of a double helix? Or does anyone in your family come from the shallow end of the gene pool? Well, it seems I’ve found a Welch who has lost every branch on her family tree....

AsylumOn a mysterious death certificate for an Elizabeth Welch, her contributory cause of death is insanity. Parents are unknown. Birthdate is uncertain. But she died as a patient of Columbus State Hospital—also known as Lunatic Asylum of Ohio—in 1933.

The original Columbus State Hospital opened in 1838, and after a fire destroyed it in 1868, a new building was completed in 1877—right from the region many of my ancestors come. If Elizabeth Welch was my relative, then she wouldn’t have had far to travel to be committed to the asylum.

I don’t know when she arrived, but the only clue we have is that she died at 93 years of age. If the death certificate didn’t record her birth year, then how did they know her age, unless the hospital staff knew when she arrived? If she were indeed 93 years old when she died, then she would have been born about 1840—two years after the original hospital’s opening. Was she born with obvious clues to her (potential) mental state? Or was she committed in later senile years? What kind of “insane” was she?

The only Welch family in my database to whom she would have been born in 1840 is the family of Martin C. Welch (my 4x great grandfather), but he already had a daughter named Elizabeth, born in 1836, who married in 1853 and died in 1922. Can’t be her. But how many Welch families lived in the region in the early 1900s?

In 1997, the Columbus State Hospital was razed to the ground, leaving behind four of its cemeteries. I wonder where all its records went. If they’re all gone, then all we may have left is rumor and speculation. So, how can we graft her branches back into her family tree? Perhaps we can bring sanity to Elizabeth’s restless spirit by finding answers. And whether or not she is my distant cousin, may she then rest in peace.