Commissions de lunatico inquirendo and the returns made to them, to establish whether persons were lunatics.
The early inquisitions were conducted by local men who were instructed to discover whether the subject was 'sufficient for the government of himself' and his property; when and how he had become a lunatic; whether he had alienated any land while not lucid, and if so what and to whom; what property remained to him, and who was his heir.
From 1853, the records consist of a petition or order for an inquisition, and a report by the Master in Lunacy indicating whether the subject was of unsound mind.
The early inquisitions are often informative about property holdings; later ones are not. There are few lunacy commissions for England in the twentieth century. The later records do, however, contain copies of inquisitions taken in Ireland, and in some British colonies, which are specifically concerned with the mental health of the person.
The petitioners who requested an inquisition fell into various categories: relatives; solicitors or others acting as the executors of a will; the Lunacy Commissioners, fearful of misappropriation of an estate; and creditors of the alleged lunatic.