Genealogy for Librarians is an email I subscribe to and lately there was discussion about "black sheep" in family research. EVERYONE has at least one in their family history. Yet, I have found thatpeople seem to think it reflects on them today. I know one person who upon finding her relative was unwed with children, was so devastated she dropped her research.
One researcher pointed out blacksheepancestors.com as a source for records in U.S., Canada and Great Britain. Check it out! There is International Black Sheep Society of Genealogists that has a web site, blacksheep.rootsweb.com
In past centuries, there were various factors that caused people to be reported in asylums. For one, mental hospitals were the only one in certain areas and served all regular hospital functions, including births, appendectomies and broken bones.People with behaviorial problems due to head injury, illness,"hardening of the arteries", senility etc were often admitted to residential institutions.