Institutionalized relative - death date and burial location #general

L Levy

Hi! I have a great aunt who was institutionalized by her family, I don't know the reason, but I do have reason to believe she died at Pilgrim State Hospital in New York.  I've contacted Pilgrim, and although this woman has certainly been deceased for 50 years they will not release any information, including where residents were buried.  I've also searched NY death certificates.  I believe she passed in the 1960's.
There's no death certificate that I've been able to find either. 
Her name was Ida Levy, she was born in Harrisburg, PA in 1909, daughter of Rosa and Louis Levi (changed to Lewis Levy later) but lived in the Bronx, NY until she was institutionalized at Pilgrim, which is located in Brentwood, NY.  I have contacted the Jewish cemetery of Central Islip, but have not heard back yet.
Has anyone had experience with researching a family member in similar circumstances and do you have any advice? 

Marilyn Feingold

HIPPA has changed everything. Many years ago I researched a family member in a facility and got a copy of their diagnosis and lots of other information.  I am certain they wouldn't give me that information today.  Too bad. Marilyn Feingold

Kenneth Ryesky

I do not know any of the particulars regarding your interactions with Pilgrim Psychiatric Center (formerly Pilgrim State Hospital), but note the following
New York's Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) is structurally and operationally similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), except that FOIL gives New York state agencies broader reasons to deny access than does FOIL for federal agencies.
Your written request for the information should specifically state that the information is requested in accordance with FOIL.  If your request is denied, then the bureaucrat who denied your request is required under FOIL to inform you of (A) the reasons for the denial, and (B) the identity of the bureaucrat to whom the denial can be appealed.
If the denial is upheld on this appeal, you then have the right to further appeal the denial to the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court (if this appeal is successful you may be entitled to attorney fees and costs).
[N.B.  Don't let the name of the tribunal intimidate you.  In New York, the "Supreme Court" is the LOWEST court of general jurisdiction; the intermediate appellate tribunal is the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, and the highest state court in New York is the Court of Appeals of the State of New York.]
{Usual caveats that this does not constitute legal advice in the context of the lawyer-client relationship.}
-- KHR
Kenneth H. Ryesky, Esq.
Petach Tikva, ISRAEL

Ken Ryesky,  Petach Tikva, Israel     kenneth.ryesky@...


While looking for information about a troubled relative--I'll call him Max--in my husband's family, I did a broad search this man's first and last name in and stumbled on an index entry referring to a hearing to commit this man, linked to the original index record.  Max also was committed to Pilgrim State (this was in 1951) and also had lived in the Bronx, as did Ida Levy.  I'm pasting in the Ancestry description of this record below (while redacting the Max's real name).  It appears that Ida Levy also lived in the Bronx.  Perhaps you will have some luck with looking for her in this same database, and should you be lucky enough to find a reference to her there, will be able to follow the reference in the index to the original record(s) of a hearing and related documents--maybe including a record of her death if she died at Pilgrim State.

Good luck with your search.  I hope you'll let this discussion group know if you're successful, and if so, how you were able to prevail. 

Erika Gottfried
Teaneck, New Jersey

[First name, Last name]

Name: [xxx]
Plaintiff or Defendant: Plaintiff
Date of Action: 26 Sep 1951
Place of Action: Bronx, New York
Other Party: Appt of cmt
Volume Number: 3
Location: The Office of the Bronx County Clerk
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Michele Lock

I have a paternal aunt that appears to have been mentally retarded, and institutionalized in the 1940s in Pennsylvania. I had thought this woman died around 1945 or so, but it turns out that she died in 1989, in the institution in central Pennsylvania that she apparently had been sent to.

In her case, her gravestone was listed in, which then was listed on  Also, the institution where she was sent must have informed Social Security of her death, because there is also a Social Security index listing on

Perhaps that is a way to find out what happened to your relative, by searching for a Social Security claim application or in their death index?

In Pennsylvania, there is a form that a person can fill out, to get the medical files of a deceased institutionalized relative, but you do have to show some close relationship to the person. I haven't tried to do this. Maybe the state of New York has such a form? In PA, the form is not sent to the instituion directly, but to the state department of health (IIRC), or whichever agency oversees institutions.

What a surprise to us when this relative showed up on I  had never heard of this poor person. I don't think her siblings (my father and sisters) were ever informed of her death. And I'm certain my mother never heard of her, because my mother would have endlessly complained about this (she endlessly complained about my father's mentally ill first cousin).

Good luck.

Mike Grossman

Until recently, I believed that my maternal grandfather (Abraham Berkowitz) had been institutionalized in Central Islip State Hospital (one of the 4 state hospitals like Pilgrim). His name appeared in the 1930 US Census as an "inmate," and he appeared in the NY Death Index with a date of death (1931) and a certificate number. I called the Suffolk County "clerk" who told me that they don't have records of the CISH. Death Certificates are held by the NY State Dept of Health, Vital Records Section, Albany, NY. I completed the form for the death certificate, paid $22, and mailed it in early June. I probably won't hear from them for months. BUT, I have since discovered that he died in 1916, so I was trailing the wrong Abraham Berkowitz. That's all I know.
Good Luck, MikeG


Very interesting. I am trying to track down a relative who we believe was in CISH in 1940 (inmate) and died in 1944. We don't know if we have the right person either, but this is helpful.

Jeff Goldner
Researching Goldner, Singer, Neuman, Braun, Schwartz, Reichfeld (Hungary/Slovakia); Adler, Roth, Ader (Galicia); Soltz/Shultz (Vitebsk, maybe Lithuania)

Linda Epstein

Try searching the New York State Index and see if the death record is from Central Islip. It's possible that Ida was buried in the cemetery attached to Pilgrim State. 

Try this site:

Linda Epstein