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State Hospitals: Historical Patient Records: Rochester

Historical patient, employee, and student records from Minnesota State Hospitals

Rochester State Hospital

The conception of the Rochester State Hospital began in 1875 as the Minnesota Inebriate Asylum funded by a tax on liquor dealers. Land  was purchased in 1876 and construction begun in 1877, but liquor dealers’ strong opposition to the tax inhibited funding for completion. In 1878 the legislature repealed the tax and abolished the inebriate asylum. In its place the legislature established the Second Minnesota Hospital for the Insane and transferred the lands, buildings, and funds of the asylum to the hospital. An inebriate treatment department was created within the hospital. The Rochester State Hospital opened on January 1, 1879, with patients transferred from St. Peter. In 1897 the inebriate treatment department was abolished and responsibility for inebriate care was transferred to the counties.

Treatment of mental diseases at the hospital before the 1920s consisted mainly of keeping patients occupied with work and recreation, and restraining violent patients. Many patients worked on the hospital’s 500-acre farm. Plays, concerts, and dances were put on for recreational purposes. In the late 1940s insulin and electroshock treatments were common, and in the 1950s lobotomies were used on some patients. Throughout the hospital’s history the use of drugs became more extensive. The hospital also served as a surgical center for many other state institutions. The Mayo Clinic provided doctors free of charge, and the hospital absorbed the cost of supplies. From 100 patients in 1879 the hospital grew to over 1,000 patients by 1900, and there were over 1,700 patients in 1955.

The hospital was closed in June, 1982, as a cost-saving measure by the legislature. Patients were transferred to other institutions, and the land and buildings to Olmsted County.

Some patient records for the Rochester State Hospital can be viewed in person at the library.  Our full State Hospital Records Request is currently unavailable but we are offering a State Hospital Index Search Request in order to assist researchers in the first stage of their record search.  

Patient Records

To order a state hospital patient index search for an individual visit our State Hospital Records Request.

Patient Case Books, 1879-1902. 
Personal and medical histories of each patient admitted to the hospital. A one-page form gives personal and family data, physical description (sometimes with photograph), data on history of insanity, results of physical and mental health examination upon admission, and date and cause of admission and discharge from hospital. Additional pages contain daily comments on the patients’ health, activities, behavior, attitudes, and occasionally medical treatment.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Patient Registers and Index, 1879-1965.
The indexes list surname, case file number, and admission and discharge dates. The registers list all patients admitted to the hospital and record case number, name, county, admission date, age, civil condition, occupation, education, religion, habits, nativity, nativity of parents, diagnosis, suicidal or homicidal, number of attack, number of admission (i.e., whether being readmitted), age at first attack, duration of insanity, time in hospital, date discharged, condition of dismissal, and observations.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Patient Registers and Indexes- Rochester, 1899-1924.
Part of the Minnesota Division of Public Institutions Series
Alphabetical index by patient name, and statistical record that may include admission date, patient’s name and residence, relative, gender, age, marital status, nativity, parents’ nativity, occupation, habits, number of attacks, insane relations, number of admissions, previous hospital residence, discharge date, condition on discharge, and remarks.
MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid

Statistical Record, 1879-1899
Volume A, covering admissions from 1879 to 1899. Contains, for each patient, personal identifying information and a brief case history. Most probably compiled by or for the Board of Control from the institution’s original admission records at an undetermined date (possibly circa 1901). This volume does not include all patients in this date range. 
MNHS call number: 114.G.4.1B-1

Admission and Discharge Records, 1879-1963.
Records in several different formats, generally giving the following information: name, case number, residence (or county), dates of admission and discharge, and condition or remarks.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid 

Obituary/Cemetery Record, 1879-1965
Obituary record books (1879-1916, 1916-1947) and three photocopies of cemetery plats (1886-1965) detailing the persons who died and/or were buried at the hospital. Information recorded in the obituary records may include death date, patient name, sex, age, marital status, occupation, nativity, from which county sent, form of disease on admission, number of attacks, admission number, case number, admission date, period of residence, total duration of disease, cause of death, and disposal of remains. The cemetery plats show the location of each grave, with name and case number of the interred.
MNHS call number: 114.B.10.16F

Removal of Body Certificates, 1933-1975
Information recorded: patient name, date of death, date of removal, whether an autopsy was done, who ordered removal, who received the body, and remarks (usually blank).
MNHS call number: 114.B.11.5B

Aggregated Patient Cards, 1920s-1990s
Part of the Department of Human Services Administrative Records
Aggregated patient index cards from various state hospitals; information includes name, Department of Public Welfare number, birth date, birth place, county of commitment, county of residence, occupation, hospital, hospital case number, social security number, admittance history. Patients may have multiple cards.
MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid

Note: These records include private information about individuals. Records with private information are closed for 75 years from date of last entry in the record and occasionally 100 years due to sensitive and/or third-party data. Researchers must apply for permission to use these records.  Click here for more information on accessing restricted records. 

Employee & Student Records

Minnesota Division of Public Institutions Personnel Service Records- Rochester, 1931-1938.
Cards listing employee name, address, position, salary, brief statement of duties, data on previous state service, education, training, and personal and family information.
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (Social Security Department: Public Institutions Division).

Payroll Records, 1878-1951.
Employee record book (1878-1901), payrolls (1901-1909, 1919-1921), a daily time record retained in the absence of payrolls (1907-1913), and quarterly (1913-1919) and semi-annual (1929-1951) lists of employees and salaries.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Supervisor’s Record of Male Employees, 1890-1906.
Ledger book listing employee name, date commenced working, pay rate, date and reason for leaving, and remarks. 
MNHS call number: See the finding aid in the library (Rochester State Hospital).

Student Records, 1896-1968.
Individual student files (1927-1968) and correspondence that includes student records (1896-1927) for students in psychiatric nurses’ training. Includes student record cards, coursework and other performance reports, applications, and correspondence.
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

Note: These records include private information about individuals. Records with private information are closed for 75 years from date of last entry in the record. Researchers must apply for permission to use these records.  Click here for more information on accessing restricted records. 

Other Records

Hospital Bulletin of the Rochester State Hospital
Rochester, Minn. : Press of the Record and Union, 1893.
Vol. 2, no. 4 (Aug. 1893)-vol. 3, no. 1 (Nov. 1893).
MNHS call number: RC445.M6 R674 v.2:4-v.3:1

Publications, 1939-1982
Includes Pouch A Gazette (1939-1940), a monthly publication of the Rochester State Hospital Nursing School; the Bulletin (1965-1968, 1976-1981), a bi-monthly publication for employees; a volunteer handbook (1965); and two publications by and for patients, The Elm Leaf (1950-1961) and R.U.S.H.: The Magazine for U at Rochester State Hospital (1971-1974).
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid

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