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What do I need to know?

For patient records 

  • the asylum the person was a patient
  • the year and rough date of admission
  • their last name

We have a digitised copy of a master list of patients for each of the asylums linked to below - this may help you identify the asylum to which your relative may have been admitted. It will also offer the admission date which can then help you identify the case file for that patient. Click on the name of an asylum, download the patient list and browse it for names of interest:

How do I search?

Search for records from each institution and browse the results for terms like patient records or case books within a year range.

Note that when you start typing the name of an asylum or institution in the first field below, it will generate a list of government agencies containing the words you've typed (for example, "Ballarat" will return both the Ballarat Asylum, along with various courts, schools and other agencies which have existed in Ballarat; select "Ballarat Asylum" from the list).

About these records

Up until the 1970s, people with serious mental illnesses or disabilities entered, or were committed to, institutions including asylums and receiving houses. Many of these were run by the State, which had assumed formal guardianship of the people in care. We hold archived records from institutions which are now closed.

Some name indexes are online and will give you information like the asylum name and date of admission. Most records are not digitised and you will need to visit the North Melbourne Reading Room.

Next Steps

What are in these records?

The level of detail in the records varies a lot depending on what was retained.  In general, if we have patient records, you might find:

  • the patient’s name
  • the dates of their admission and discharge
  • spouse’s name and profession
  • who and why patient was admitted
  • basic details of their history (age, place of birth, current residence)
  • details of their illness or disability
  • patient case books (one page or more of notes on patient)
  • date of death  (if they died in the asylum)
  • some records include a photo (many don’t).
  • Admission warrants 
  • Patient registers 

In a few cases we have more detailed medical histories of patients.


Language warning.

The language used in these records can be distressing or offensive. The terms used to describe health (for example, ‘lunatic’) reflect the attitudes of the time and may not represent current day understandings.  We sometimes repeat these terms to accurately convey how the records can be accessed; this does not mean we endorse those past attitudes.

Ancestry has digitised versions of the Victorian Asylum records (1853-1940) online. They cover the following asylums:

1. Ararat Asylum 
2. Ballarat Asylum 
3. Belmont / Glen Holme / Landcox Licensed Houses 
4. Cloverdale Licensed House 
5. Collingwood Asylum 
6. Kew Asylum 
7. Kew Cottages 
8. Lara Inebriate Retreat 
9. Merton Licensed House 
10. Mont Park Hospital for the Insane 
11. Mt Ida Licensed House 
12. Northcote Inebriate Asylum 
13. St Helens / Pleasant View Licensed House 
14. The Tofts Licensed House 
15. Yarra Bend Asylum

You can search these records on the webpage Asylum Records, 1853-1940

To view these records for free within Public Record Office Victoria Reading Rooms: Reading Room Access Only.

You can also search names listed on webpage Alphabetical Register of Lunatics - Record Series (VPRS) 1706.

To view these records for free within Public Record Office Victoria Reading Rooms: Reading Room Access Only.

The website of the Ballarat Historical Society hosts data from the transcribed registers of the Ballarat Asylum, undertaken as a volunteer project by Ballarat local Brett Weinberg.

Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples

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