Monday, July 21, 2014

My Monday Mystery - John Bush Lambert

My Monday Mystery - John Bush Lambert

In researching my paternal side of the tree I came across the brother of my 2nd great grandmother Helen Lambert Rich. His name is John Bush Lambert and was patient at the Eastern Kentucky Lunatic Asylum in Lexington, Kentucky.

As I moved through each of my 2nd great grandmother's siblings, collecting data on each of their of their families I kept coming back to my 2nd great uncle, John Bush Lambert. As I looked for the usual documents (census records, marriage records, military records and death records) to fill in my time line for him I noticed that the last 33 years of his life had been spent in the same psychiatric hospital in Lexington, Kentucky.

My curiosity was gnawing at me with the questions, why was he there? what had happened? I wasn't sure if I could find the answers to my questions because other than my Dad, his sister and few cousins there didn't seem to be anyone left alive that I could talk to about this.

John Bush was the second child of John William Lambert and Mary J Walker Lambert and was born on 24 June 1843 in East Bend, Boone, Kentucky. Census records for 1850 and 1860 show that my 3rd great grandparents, John William and Mary J moved from Boone County, Kentucky to Covington, Kentucky. 

I am not 100% sure if John Bush Lambert served in the Civil War, however, he is listed in the US, Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865. This record is dated 20 July 1863 and shows that John B Lambert is 20 years of age, single and a farmer. I also found a listing for a John Lambert who enlisted into the Kentucky 53rd Infantry, Company K in Covington, Kentucky on 11 April 1865 and mustered out on 15 September 1865. I am not entirely convinced that this is my 2nd great uncle and I need to do further research.

On the 10th of April 1874, John Bush married Hannah L Kautz, daughter of Jacob Kautz and Mary Ann Walker in Caldwell County, Missouri. They did not have any children. After 20 years of marriage they divorced. John and Hannah were cousins through their Walker lines. 

On the 17th day of April 1893, John Bush Lambert killed his father, John William with a fireplace poker. I don't know how long John Bush was mentally ill or when his symptoms began. Why did he do this? What transpired between father and son that would lead to this outcome? 

On the 24th of June 1893 John Bush was sent to Eastern Kentucky Lunatic Asylum. It was also his 50th birthday. In 1912, the Eastern Kentucky Lunatic Asylum was changed to Eastern State Hospital by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He would spend the next 33 years in this facility. 

John Bush died on the 31st day of March 1926 at the Eastern State Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. According to his death certificate he was buried at the cemetery on the grounds of Eastern State Hospital. The cause of death listed as lobar pneumonia with a contributory cause of dementia praecox or schizophrenia.  I have inquired about getting a copy of his records from the Eastern State Hospital (hopefully that will lead to another entry at a later date) and I am waiting on snail mail from the the public library in regards to newspaper articles of John William Lambert's death and his obituary.

When I look at John Bush's death certificate there are important pieces of genealogical information missing. The names of his parents and their birth places are listed as "Unknown".Whether this was a deliberate decision made by his family I cannot say. However, considering that mental illness was a taboo topic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I can see that this may have been an attempt to distance the rest of the family from John Bush Lambert.

Year: 1850; Census Place: Covington Ward 6, Kenton, Kentucky; Roll: M432_208; Page: 317B; Image: 641.
Year: 1860; Census Place: District 1, Kenton, Kentucky; Roll: M653_379; Page: 488; Image: 204; Family History Library Film: 803379.
Year: 1880; Census Place: Kocks, Kenton, Kentucky; Roll: 426; Family History Film: 1254426; Page: 656D; Enumeration District: 129; Image: 0534.
Year: 1900; Census Place: Lexington Eastern Kentucky Asylum for Insane, Fayette, Kentucky; Roll: 519; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 0087; FHL microfilm: 1240519.
Year: 1910; Census Place: Lexington Ward 2, Fayette, Kentucky; Roll: T624_474; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0019; FHL microfilm: 1374487.
Year: 1920; Census Place: Lexington Ward 2, Fayette, Kentucky; Roll: T625_568; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 53; Image: 780. U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Kentucky, Death Records, 1852-1953 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007. including image.
Historical Data Systems, comp. U.S., Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2009.
Eastern Kentucky Lunatic Asylum image ( accessed online 21 July 2014.


  1. Really interesting Dawn, It will be interesting to see what you get from the Hospital.

  2. Interesting post. My first guess would be that the death cert lacks information because the informant was someone at the institution who didn't know the answers.

    If you have not read "Annie's Ghosts" by Steve Luxenberg, you should. Different state, but many of the research challenges regarding those who were mentally ill will likely be the same.

  3. Hi, Have you sent for his military record. Becky

  4. Hi Bekki,

    I will being doing some research soon in Atlanta and John's military records are at the top of my list! If my information is correct he only served from April to September 1865. I will let you know how that goes.