How do I make a new category for the State Lunatic Asylum in Georgia? [closed]

+13 votes
I'm working on Josiah Sirmons.  It looks like he ended his days in the infamous Milledgeville State hospital, now know as the Central State Hospital, but then known as the State Lunatic Asylum.  It is in Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia.  At one time, it was one of the largest psychiatric facilities in the United States.  I cannot find a category already created but I did find a category under Social Institutions, Insane Asylums with several place names (like Michigan Insane Asylums).  I think there should be a category: Georgia Insane Asylums, and then a category: State Lunatic Asylum, Milledgeville, Georgia.  But, I don't know how to do this.  So -- can someone who is better at categories than I, make a new category?  My thoughts with a Wikipedia source for info are below:

[[Category: Social Institutions, Georgia, Insane Asylums]]

[[Category: Milledgeville, Georgia]]

* Wikipedia contributors. "Central State Hospital (Milledgeville, Georgia)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 May. 2018. Web. 30 Jun. 2018.[,_Georgia) Wikipedia]
WikiTree profile: Josiah Sirmans
closed with the note: The tag is fixed and there is another question open about categorization.  If you need help making a new tag for an asylum, etc., please ask in G2G
in WikiTree Help by Kathy Zipperer G2G6 Pilot (482k points)
closed by Kathy Zipperer
I don't know about the category,  but my 3gg lived in Milledgeville during the 1800s when it was the capital of Georgia.   I mentioned it to a cousin in Georgia and all she knew about it was the "Lunitic Asylum " was there.  My sister and I spent a couple of days there in 2010 .  It is a great town.  The old governor's mansion is open for tours and the state house is part of an academy.  The Asylum is huge and most was abandoned but at least one still had patients.  I had relatives who worked there.  It was probably a really scary place  in the 1800s.
My Grandmother spent most of her life at the Milledgeville Central State Hospital.  I have been wanting to do a study on the facility and what happened to her during her stay.  What I have read is distressing.  Some very bad things happened there.  I know a little about her but most of the family that actually knew what happened are no longer available.  I am interested in what you do on this topic.
Lynn,  I'm so very sorry about your grandmother.  While it's very depressing to read about Milledgeville state hospital, we should continue to learn and share our knowledge.  Please put the category on your grandmother's profile when you have a chance

1 Answer

+17 votes
Best answer
You had already begun to create the category -- you'll notice it showed up red.  That means you needed to complete creating the category by nesting it in a higher category, which i just did -- I nested it directly under the Category:  Insane Asylums, which already did exist.  So your category now officially exists.

I don't believe with a topic like asylums that we need a complicated category hierarchy divided into countries, states, etc.  It's easier to find what you're looking for if they're all in one big category like Insane Asylums.  If we get over 200 asylum categories, then we can consider dividing them into smaller portions -- but that will be awhile!

As a side comment, I"m in New Orleans at the moment attending the annual convention of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.  Today we recognize that mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder are physical illnesses in which the biochemistry of the brain has gotten off-kilter, thereby creating the symptoms of mental illness.  Because they most often show up in late teens/early twenties, some term them a developmental disorder.  We campaign not only to treat mental illness, but to counter stigmatization of people who have a mental illness and we discourage the use of words like "insane" and "crazy".  

So should we have a category like "insane asylum"?  Yes -- precisely because it tells us something important not only about the people who were there, but about the society that placed them there.  These were places people were often treated very badly by a society that was afraid of them and shunned them.  They are an important part of history.  

I hope you can find out enough about Josiah Sirmans to write up his biography to share some of the challenges he must have faced in his life, and some of the pain he surely endured.
by Jack Day G2G6 Pilot (472k points)
selected by Kathy Zipperer


It went here:

Where there are a bunch more.  These two need to be combined obviously.

I've asked in G2G if there is a way to cross reference.  Since I don't understand the ins and outs of categories, this may be a silly question.
Well, I know if you go to the lowest category and click edit, you can put more than 1 higher category in just by adding it to the top. That way it will appear under both.

The thing is, do we need both?
It was the feeling of Jack Day, above, that we didn't need to make this complicated.  I would defer to him since he's been around longer on WikiTree than I.
Yeah, he's got me by a month. but I guess we need to decide if we are going to move all the insane asylums out of the "homes and asylums" category and just have a "homes" category left or move the asylums into the "homes and asylums" category. Having BOTH isn't a good idea.

Certainly needs sorting. I am working on people who lived in the Dorset County Asylum (England) I haven't placed anything on here yet but would have gravitated to categorising it locationally.(although a further problem is that it had 3 names over 160 years)

Personally, I think that the Asylum and Homes category, subdivided into types makes sense. I don't know about their organisation im the USA but in the UK, County Asylums were an extension of the poor laws i.e they were set up to remove those paupers who were 'insane' or had what we would now call severe learning difficulties from the workhouses. There were also private asylums ( in the UK these were for many years less regulated than the pauper asylums.  ) Other asylums were set up for the blind and the deaf and also asylums for orphans.

I agree with Jack that they are an important part of our history. I would add though that we see them through filtered, recent memories. 

The asylum movement was originally a  reform movement , in part, influenced by Quakers and fought for in Parliament by Lord Shaftesbury  Before their establishment, poor people (adults and children) who could not be cared for in a small labourers cottage complete with open fire, were often chained up in barns and outhouses.

Others were locked up in gaols or madhouses.  For the US history ( which paralleled that in the UK see

So the essential work in this thread has been done;  Josiah Sirmans' profile has been placed in an appropriate category.

The discussion has now moved to what kind of hierarchy that category should be in.  The most instinctive way we have of grouping categories is by location -- local location, regional location, national location.  And that may be the best way to do it.  But I frequently introduce the question -- is that the best way to group categories in this topic?  

Categories are simply a convenience.  The purpose of grouping categories is to help users find the profiles they are looking for.  For that reason, grouping all institutions -- mental and old age -- into the same category and then slicing that up by region -- may not be as smart as simply having one category for mental institutions and another for old age institutions all over the world.  You can up to have 200 categories nested in a higher category, and even more if you're willing to click on a new frame.  So a flat structure may be more helpful.  I'm not saying it is in this case -- I'm just saying these are the things that should be considered in developing a particular hierarchy of categories.

If this type of thing is of interest, do join the Categorization Project -- this is the kind of thing we deal with frequently!
I think I would be terrible at it besides which I really need to cut down  on wiki-tree (asylums are a side interest from my MA work) I do realise that it can't be easy to construct these hierachies that seem logical for everyone. I often get very frustrated following links on here, sometimes going round in circles .

Jack --

I just wanted to comment in response to your original answer and say that I appreciate your perspective. It is an important historical lesson that we all need to understand. Humans have a propensity to marginalize anyone who seems outside of what they consider to be "normal." I'm glad we're able to look back at this point in history and recognize that we've made progress. There's still much to be done, but we have made progress.

Thank you!

I also have several people in my family who went to Milledgeville, including my great-grandfather (a Civil War veteran in a time when little was known about PTSD/"battle fatigue"). The then-"lunatic asylum" was a dumping ground for not only the mentally ill or developmentally disabled, but also epileptics and various social "deviants" - a daughter who bore a child out of wedlock, say, or a wife trying to escape from an abusive husband. Sad.

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