Mental Health and the Jacobs Tree

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Phil Kirby contacted me in June 2023 and pointed out that there were a number of entries for people in the Jacobs tree being admitted to Bethlem and other institutions.

Phil encouraged me to assemble some information on family members who were patients of the various institutions.

Firstly, we need to remember that what was considered a mental issue in the past is not necessarily how the illness would be considered today. Treatment for mental health has also improved over the years.

[Hyperlinks on the individual take you to their entry in the database. All hyperlinks on this page open in a new tab.]

David Jacobs (1727 – 1909)

Whilst we don’t have any records confirming his mental state, he was arrested for stealing ribbon on at least three occasions. On his final arrest he was reported to be not of sound mind.

Henry Jacobs (1833-1911)

Formerly a glass merchant, Henry married twice. First to Ellen Silverstone and later to Elizabeth Twine.

We don’t have any documents for his hospitalisation but his death certificate tells us that he died in Colney Hatch Asylum in Friern Barnet, now known as Friern Hospital. The certain cites Senile Dementia of uncertain duration as one of the causes.


Leah Jacobs (1836 – )

At age 19 Leah was admitted to Bethlem. Leah was admitted by her mother.

Her patient records describe her as “Excited imagination dwelling chiefly on high capability for music with a desire for an immediate opera engagement – dressing outré and most destructive of furniture, books, wearing apparel etc.”

She was in hospital from October 1855 until May 1856 at which time she was discharged as being ‘Cured’

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Henry Jacobs (1840-)

On November 9th 1855 Henry is listed as “Insane in the workhouse: admitted last Monday, sent from Police.” 

On 24th October 1856 his parents’ settlement record shows: “Son Henry Lunatic at Hopton House”


Frances Eve Benjamin (1860-1910)


Photo from

Frances is probably the most affected member of the Jacobs tree.


In January 1880 her mother admitted her to Bethlem

She is diagnosed as suffering from “Acute Mania”

The cause is listed as ‘Over exertion”

One of the questions asked is whether any relatives are similarly afflicted. The answer given is “Yes, uncle and aunt on father’s side”. [See 1888 notes below]

Frances was discharged in July 1880 as being “Recovered”


In January 1888 she is again admitted to Bethlem.

This time the cause is listed as “Domestic Anxiety”

The record shows “She has all the appearance and manner of a person suffering from Acute Mania. She refuses food and will not speak”.  

In the information given by her mother with regards to any insanity in the family:-

Uncle, paternal, died in Haywards Heath Asylum, aunt is also insane.

More details can be seen on her page in the database and also at and 

Adeline Phillipa Jacobs (1867-)

I suspect that this may be a case of mistaken interpretation.

In 1877 Adeline was admitted the Norwood Orphanage, no mention of any mental problems and it appears to be what the name implies.

However, in the 1881 census she is a scholar at Olive Hospital and Orphan Asylum.

Looking on the Internet it is quite probable that these two names are the same place.

Today it is known as Norwood Children’s Care Center.



Frances is listed in the workhouse – Constance Road, Camberwell. She is listed as destitute, but no reference to any mental issues. She was discharged back to her husband’s care a fortnight later.

Samuel George Jacobs (1876-1956)

Born in Hokitika, New Zealand, Samuel married Eliza Atwill.

Samuel died at Cherry Farm Hospital, a psychiatric hospital serving the Dunedin region. Cherry Farm was described as “Cherry Farm Hospital epitomized the village system atmosphere in name and design, contrasting with the harsh conditions and architecture of the fortress-like Seacliff Mental Asylum and the common aspects of the 19th century asylums.”

This indicates that Samuel may well have had more sympathetic treatment that those of earlier times.


Millicent Swaebe (1885 – 1957)

In the 1939 National Register, Millicent, who is married to Fred Cox, is a patient in Grayling Mental Hospital.



Founded in 1247 as the New Order of our Lady of Bethlehem, Bethlem Royal Hospital is still a psychiatric hospital and is associated with King’s College London.