I have been researching my family's strain of bipolar and have traced it back to the late 1700s. There is much mental illness in my immediate family, so you can imagine my surprise when I discovered a "declaration" filed in Nova Scotia court records filed by my great-grandfather, Wenman Stawell that describes rampant bipolar symptoms within his family. Not only had Wenman been institutionalized for eight years, but so had two of his three sons and his brother. He apparently inherited the condition from his mother Elizabeth (Grteen) who was, as he described her, "harmless insane".
With this information, I revisited the Green family line and found some strange behavior; like one of Elizabeth's brothers who petitioned British Parliment because he was sure he had a cure for Cancer; or another brother who diked a whole ocean inlet by himself in Nova Scotia.
Elizabeth's father and grand father (both named Benjamin Green were, in succession, Treasurer of the province. The elder Green resigned under charges of corruption and the younger lost his position because he blocked some incriminating information on his father.
Going back furher got more difficult. I can trace the Greens back to the family of Joseph Pike, who lived in Newbury Massachusetts. He traveled with a group to New Jersey where he founded the town of Woodbridge. He then retuned to Newbury, which seems strange.
I must emphasize that beyond Elizabeth Green, I am only speculating.
After I became more public with my information, I was contacted by the great grand daughter of the one son of Wenman Stawell who had not been institutionalized. When he died the family moved to western Canada and then to Washington State in the US. She told me that her family also had been visited by various mental illnesses. Wow.
I find that often when I bring this up with other researchers they are somewhat put off. No one wants to think there may be mental illness in their family, and they question my motives.
I think it would be great if genealogists who did have evidence of mental illness in their family tree would share this data in their online trees. It would be a benefit to families who are suffering through the torment to know there is a genetic component to the illnesses.
Check out my web site and in particular the narrative on the Stawell and Green families at: www.wainwrightfamily.org