Pennhurst records 1940s to 1960s

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Hi.....This is my first post here. I've scouted through the AP threads for mentions of Pennhurst, but didn't see information that might help me with my search for the records of my deceased brother James (Jimmy) Stewart Brown (b. 1947, d. 1964) Our parents have been dead since my teenaged years (I'm now 59) and all other relatives who would know anything helpful are gone too. I have a couple of small photos of him; his birth and death certificates; his obituary; and just family stories/gossip. He is buried in our hometown in the same cemetery where our parents are interred.

Jimmy was institutionalized at Pennhurst sometime in the late 1940s, but more likely the early 1950s, around the time my parents had their second child. When my 18-year old mother gave birth to Jimmy in November 1947, he was supposedly born with hydrocephalus. (The few times he was discussed in front of me, the term "water on the brain" was given as the root of his problems.) Jimmy died in late February 1964, when I was five years old. I don't think I ever met him, but I do remember my parents going to visit him. And I do (barely) remember his funeral. His immediate cause of death, according to his death certificate, is "aspiration pneumonia." Supposedly an autopsy was performed. I also learned from his death certificate that he was an "idiot, with grand mal epilepsy" and "chronic meningitis, inactive." I didn't see anything on the death certificate that looked like a Pennhurst patient identification number. He was never assigned a Social Security number.

Pennhurst was the subject of litigation for many years and formally closed in 1987. The property was left to deteriorate until recently when a private buyer purchased it. A very active group of preservationists is now working to transform at least a portion of the old complex into a museum.

Long story short, I'm wondering if anyone here has had any experience requesting Pennhurst patient records? If so, could you share how you went about it and whether you were successful? My main interest is to try to piece together a few more facts about Jimmy's life so I can pass it on to younger generations. I don't want him to be forgotten.

Thank you!


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