It comes as a surprise when we find our ancestors making unusual decisions in their lives or finding them in institutional care. Understanding the context of these events will help us again with identifying clues to our families histories and their inter relationships.
People have been different since the beginning of time. Were our relatives like their neighbors? Did they move or relocate, because they did not get along? Taking a look at the land records and mounds of litigation that often occur can offer interesting clues on our family. Normal litigation between people is not a tool often used by the average genealogist. It offers excellent information on our families. In the east coast locations where our ancestors lived they were constantly fighting over land borders. Property was often identified with physical landmarks as markers of the border. Guess what rocks moved and trees fall down. The motto of loving thy neighbor as thyself did not often apply.
One of the large factors in the urban settings where our families started to live in the 19th and early 20th centuries put us much closer to our neighbors. This brought on whole different list of issues with our families and their neighbors. Did they get along? I hate the smell of her cooking? Did your family move a lot? From the census you can identify if your family rented or owned their property. Was the reason that they moved, because they could not pay the rent? This was a common among est immigrant families that had spent everything they had to get here. It often came down to not like the neighbors or them not liking us.
The possibility does arise that you will find a relative that is located in a institution. They are often in and out a lot. Understand people were institutionalized for a variety of reasons. They did not get along with their spouse, drinker or unable to hold a job to name a few. The instances of the person having a mental problem was not as likely as we might think.
Look at the circumstances and the people around our relatives. Understand the human interactions. If we really work to understand the influences will help us better understand to look for new information.