Series VPRS 7401
Case Books of Female Patients
About this Series Related Series Accessing the records in this Series
Date Range: Series 1867 - 1912
  Series in Custody 1867 - 1912
  Contents 1867 - 1912
Public Access: Open
Location: North Melbourne
Format of Records: Physical
Agency which created this SeriesAgency which created this Series
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Date Range Agency Title Agency Number
1867 - 1912 Ararat (Asylum 1867-1905; Hospital for the Insane 1905-1934; Mental Hospital 1934-1993; Training Centre 1966-1993; Ararat Forensic Psychiatry Centre 1991-1997; Training Centre and Mental Hospital known as non-statutory name of Aradale) VA 2841
Agency currently responsible for this SeriesAgency currently responsible for this Series
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2009 - cont Department of Health III VA 4921
Description of this SeriesDescription of this Series
  • How to use the Records
    Case histories were recorded chronologically by date of admission of the patient. Some Case Books include an index of patient surnames to locate an entry in the volume. In some institutions a separate Index to Case Books was maintained. When there is no index you can determine the date of admission by consulting the Register of Patients, Nominal Register, or Annual Examination Register. The centrally created Alphabetical Lists of Patients in Asylums (VPRS 7446) which covers the period 1849 to 1885 can also be used.

  • Function / Content
    From at least 1845 and the proclamation of An Act for the Regulation of the Care and Treatment of Lunatics (8 & 9 Vic c.100), each asylum was required to maintain a casebook of patients. The book was to be kept in such form as the Governor in Council was from time to time to direct. As soon as possible after the admission of any patient and periodically thereafter, the following details were to be entered into the casebook:
    the mental state and bodily condition of every patient on admission
    the history of his/her case recorded from time to time while he/she continued to be a patient in the asylum
    a correct description of the medicine and other remedies prescribed for the treatment of his/her disorder
    and in the case of death an exact account of the autopsy (if any) of the patient.

    Information recorded in the case histories includes personal and medical details as follows: date of admission; admission number; name and address of nearest relative; by whom brought to the asylum; previous residence; age and sex of patient; whether married, widowed or single; if any family; occupation; habits of life; form of insanity; duration of present attack; if disordered before/if disorder hereditary; specific signs of insanity; if suicidal; if dangerous and destructive; bodily condition; case notes; and a description of the medicine and other remedies prescribed for the treatment of his/her disorder. The Case Books usually record whether a patient was transferred elsewhere, discharged or died in custody. A copy of the post-mortem report was sometimes included in cases of death.

    In later years the content of the Case Books was altered slightly. Reference was made to the admission number of the patient and a photograph of the patient on admission was often included. Additional information such as extracts from the required medical certificates and a copy of the Medical Superintendent's report on the mental and physical condition of the patient were often incorporated and additional space was provided for recording the history of each patient.

    These books were to be regularly inspected by an Inspector or other officer appointed under the provisions of the prevailing legislation. It was expected that a full account of the mental and physical condition of the patient would be entered in the casebook on admission of the patient with a further note to be made at the end of each month at least for the first six months and subsequently a full note every six months. However such thorough and accurate notes were not always maintained.

    In 1912 the format of case histories was changed from bound Case Books to a looseleaf folio format, known as Patient Clinical Notes. The new format facilitated the transfer of case histories with the patients when they were sent to other institutions. Patient Clinical Notes are registered as a separate series.

  • Recordkeeping System
    Records of patients in asylums are well controlled. For the most part patient records are arranged by the date of admission or date of discharge (including death). Indexes of patient surnames usually exist as a means of determing the relevant dates.

    Admissions of patients were recorded in date order in Registers of Patients and patients were allocated an admission number. An index of surnames was often created to provide access to the entries. The Admission Warrants authorising the committal of the patients to the asylum were filed by admission number and hence are also chronological by date of admission.

    Case histories were recorded on each patient. Initially the case histories were entered in bound volumes, known as Case Books, in order of date of admission (admission number order). A separate Index to the Case Books was sometimes maintained. From 1912 looseleaf folios were used. Known as Patient Clinical Notes, the folios were transferred as patients moved between asylums. The notes were ultimately filed alphabetically by surname according to the year of final discharge or death. Patient Files succeeded the Patient Clinical Notes in 1953 and were controlled and arranged in the same manner. Routine examinations of patients were recorded in Annual and Quinquennial Examination Registers. Entries in these registers are usually either by date of examination or by date of admission. The volumes are often self-indexing.

    Records of the discharge, transfer or death of patients was initially recorded in separate Discharge Registers as well as in the Register of Patients and the case histories. From 1962 separate Discharge Registers were phased out, however, some asylums continued to maintain them. Dates of admission and discharge were also recorded in Nominal Registers of Patients, which provide access by patient surname to other patient records.

    This series consists of Case Books of female patients at the Ararat Asylum. The Case Books in this series record details of those patients admitted until May 1912 however notes were added to some cases up until 1942. Volume 9 records the continuation notes on cases begun in earlier volumes and some new admissions between February1911 and August 1911.

    To access the medical details of a specific patient the researcher should know the date of admission of the patient. Admission dates can be gained from:

    VPRS 7427 Nominal Register of Patients 1867-1906;
    VPRS 7430 Annual Examination of Patients Register 1889-1912;
    VPRS 7446 Alphabetical Lists of Patients in Asylums (Volume 3) 1867-1884.

    Prior to transfer to the Public Record Office this series was held in the Charles Brother's Museum at the Mental Health Library, Office of Psychiatric Services. Apparently this series and other 19th century psychiatric records were collected by C R D Brothers during his research for the book Early Victorian Psychiatry 1835-1905 and subsequently left at the library.


    Lunacy Statute 1867, No.309
    Lunacy Amendment Act 1888, No.986
    Lunacy Statute 1890
    Lunacy Act 1903, No.1873

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Consignment Number Contents Date Range Public Access No. of Units
P0001 1867 - 1912 Open 9
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