Institutional records are another class of collections that should be part of one’s genealogy research repertoire. Although most of your ancestors may not have spent time in an institution, I’ll bet that almost every family tree has several that have. So they are worth your effort to research.
Here are a few good primers for searching institutional records:
- FamilySearch – Institution and School Records
- Finding Your Ancestors in Poor House or Poor Farm Records
- Researching Ancestors in Asylums
What kind of institutions and types of records can we discover?
- Poor Farm
- Orphan Train
- Mental Hospital
- Institutional School
- Correctional institutions
Acquiring records from each of these types of institutions may be difficult because of privacy concerns, but they are worth the effort.
Below you will find free online institutional records you can use to help you discover more about your relatives who have spent time in an institution.
Note: Some of the links listed take you to a FamilySearch Collection of digital images. Near the bottom of the page under Film/Digital Notes is the name of each sub-collection. If there is a camera icon at the right of the name (in the Format column) then the collections’ images are browsable. If there is a camera with a key icon, it is only available at a Family History Center or affiliated library. If there is a film reel icon, then it is only available in microfilm format, not digital. To take full advantage, please make sure that you are logged in to FamilySearch. The results may be different if you are signed in, rather than not.
(Updated August 2023)
District of Columbia Free Online Institutional Records
- District of Columbia, Debtors and Criminals in Washington County Jail
- District of Columbia, Suspects and Criminals in the Metropolitan Police Identification Records 1883 to 1890
- District of Columbia, US Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery AKA Military Asylum Cemetery
- District of Columbia, Washington Asylum Potters Field AKA Almshouse Cemetery
- District of Columbia, World War I Selective Service System Draft Cards, Prisoners, Insane, In Hospitals, 1917-1918
- United States, Freedmen’s Bureau Hospital and Medical Records, 1865-1872
- Washington D.C., Hospital Records, Freedmen’s Hospital, 1872-1910
- Washington, District of Columbia, Indentures of Apprenticeship Recorded in the Orphans Court, 1802-1811
For all Free District of Columbia Links, click on the category of interest:
Probate and Wills