Orphans in USA Orphanages (1653-1900)

New York Orphans Records (click)

As early as 1653, New York City (formerly called New Amsterdam) recognized that it needed to care for the city’s minor children, widows, and orphans. In February of that year, the Deacons of the Reformed Dutch Church were appointed to act as Orphan Masters. Their duties were to “keep their eyes open and look as Orphanmasters after widows and orphans…” They were to report to city officials who would appoint cuators if necessary to take care of the estates and effects of these widows and orphaned children.

On February 10, 1653, two men were appointed to act, not as Orphanmasters as originally intended, but as Overseers of Orphans. City officials continued to rule in the Orphan’s Court, which had been created by Stuyvesant to “attend to orphans and minor children within the jurisdiction of this city [New York City]”

The Records of this Orphans’ Court have been published as “Minutes of the Orphan Masters of New Amsterdam 1655-1663” by Berthold Fernow and “The Minutes of the Orphan Masters of New Amsterdam 1663-1668” translated by Edmund B. O’Callaghan. Genealogists can also consult The Records of New Amsterdam : From 1653 to 1674 Anno Domini by Berthold Fernow

There were may orphanages and orphan asylums in the 19th century. I have begun transcribing records for as many of these as possible

Some New York early orphanages were

  • Half Orphan Asylum for Destitute and Abandoned Children
  • Leake and Watts Orphan House
  • Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum (I have been transcribing these records)
  • Hebrew Orphan Asylum, Brooklyn
  • Old Schuler Mansion, Albany
  • Westchester-Temporary Home for Destitute Children in White Plains opened in 1885

Many of these institutions were founded in New York City to care for destitute children of immigrants from Ireland and Russia, Germany and other eastern European countries. Many immigrants found themselves unable to work and thus were unable feed their children. Women died during childbirth leaving a number of uncared for children. Many women also had illegitimate children that they could not provide for. Husbands died, living behind widows with large families. Some parents were addicted to alcohol or committed crimes and wound up in prison.

By 1850, New York state had 27 orphanages run by public and private funds but the problem of orphaned or abandoned children left behind roaming the streets begging for food was growing.

Reform groups and wealthy benefactors set up orphanages in large buildings in lower Manhattan and provided food, clothing and shelter to children. Many were run by churches and there was an emphasis on moral training and discipline. The children also learned vocational skills from mechanics to tailoring.

The Children’s Aid Society, founded in 1854, shipped some of these children to homes in the South and West on Orphan Trains. Boys and girls were give a train ticket and sent to the mid-west. Other charities – the Children’s Mission to the Children of the Destitute (Boston), the New York Juvenile Asylum, the New England Home for Little Wanderers (Boston), and the New York Foundling Hospital also followed the Children’s Aid Society’s example, using Orphan Trains to relocate destititute and abandoned children.

Westchester began housing destitute children in its Almshouse in Eastview. Opened in 1828, the Almshouse cared for impoverished adults and the elderly, and children shared space with them. Dating back to the colonial era, New York City assumed responsibility for its citizens who were destitute, sick, homeless, or otherwise unable to care for themselves. The city maintained an almshouse, various hospitals, and a workhouse on Blackwell’s Island (now called Roosevelt Island) for the poor.

In 1880, New York state passed a law that ended the practice of housing children in Almshouses with adults, unless they were born there.

Orphanage Stenography Graduates 1906Orphanage Stenography Graduates 1906

Photo courtesy of Family Tree Connection.

Choose from the list of Almshouses and Orphanages below:

Before 1850

Almshouse children (orphans) sent to New Netherland (New York) from Amsterdam Holland on the ship De Waegh (The Weigh-House), August 1655 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Palatine (German) Orphaned Children Apprenticed by Gov. Hunter in New York 1710-1714 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Almshouse Records New York 1819-1840 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

1850

It’s not an orphanage but I didn’t know where else to put this incredible database – a List of those who died while in Staten Island Quarantine May 1849 – Dec. 1850 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum Rochester, Monroe Co., New York in 1850 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

1855-1860

Almshouse Records New York City 1855-1858 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

1860

Orphans in the Sisters of Charity Orphan Asylum New York City, New York 1860 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Half-Orphans in the Sisters of Charity Orphan Asylum New York City, New York 1860 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

1870

History of Various Orphan Homes in Board of State Commissioners of Public Charities of the State of New York, 1870; Argus Company, Printers, Albany. transcribed & submitted by Linda Conpenelis Schmidt, July 2007

* Albany Orphan Asylum
* Davenport Female Orphan Asylum, Bath
* Society for the Relief of Half-Orphan and Destitute Children, New York
* Colored Orphan Asylum, New York
* Southern Tier Orphans’ Home, Elmira
* … more orphanage records to come!

1880

Orphans in St. Patrick’s Orphan Asylum Rochester, Monroe County, New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

St. Vincent’s Female Orphan Asylum Albany, Albany County, New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

St. Patrick’s Male Orphan Asylum Cortlandt, Westchester County, New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Troy Catholic Orphan (Male) Asylum Troy, Rensalaer County New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

St. Vincent’s Orphan Protectory (Male) Uitca Oneida County, New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

St. Joseph’s Female Orphan Asylum Brooklyn, Kings County New York 1880 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

1900

Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum Manhattan New York 1900 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Hebrew Orphan Asylum Amsterdam Avenue & 137 Street, Manhattan New York 1900 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society of New York, Manhattan New York 1900 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Jewish Home for Children aka Jewish Foster Home and Orphan Asylum of Philadelphia, Church Lane (Mill Street), Philadelphia Pennsylvania, 1900

Orphan Asylum Society Manhattan New York 1900 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Society for Relief of Half-Orphans & Destitute Children 1900, Manhattan New York [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

Albany Orphan Asylum Albany City, New York, Tenth Ward.; 1900 [An Olive Tree Genealogy free database]

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