Orphan Train Families Looking for Relatives
Resources for Orphan Train Riders and Their Families
The Orphan Train is a fascinating and forgotten part of the history of the United States deserving of a greater spotlight. Beginning in 1853 and continuing as late as 1930, an estimated 120,000 to 200,000 children were transported by train from the eastern United States to be rehomed with families in the Midwest. These children came from many different situations. Some had been housed in orphanages and children’s homes and others were given up by parents who wanted a better life for them. Though some children did find loving families out west, others found themselves the equivalent of unpaid servants, toiling on farms far from home. Due to spotty record-keeping, many Orphan Train children and their families are still trying to piece together their histories and family trees. Fortunately, there are many organizations and websites to aid these families in their search.
National Orphan Train Complex
The National Orphan Train Complex is an organization created to gather, preserve, and disseminate information about the Orphan Train. The organization offers research services for Orphan Train riders and their families and also runs a museum for visitors to learn more about the history of the Orphan Train and its passengers.
Children’s Aid Society
The Children’s Aid Society is the foundation behind the creation of the Orphan Train. Riders and their families can access important historical documents via the Children’s Aid Society’s Victor Remer Historical Archives. These documents are housed in the New-York Historical Society’s library, and the staff and researchers can aid families in their search.
New England Home for Little Wanderers
The New England Home for Little Wanderers was an integral part of the Orphan Train movement. Former clients can send in record information requests, though information may be scarce from the Orphan Train time period.
New York Juvenile Asylum Records
The New York Juvenile Asylum, now known as Children’s Village, sent many of its clients west on the Orphan Train. The records from the Orphan Train time period are housed at Columbia University’s library and include ledgers documenting the movement of children through the New York Juvenile Asylum from arrival to discharge. Families may request information through Columbia University.
New York Foundling Hospital Records
The New York Foundling Hospital was another organization responsible for many of the Orphan Train children. Their records are also housed at the New-York Historical Society library. As with the Children’s Aid Society records, staff and researchers at the New-York Historical Society can help families with their research.
Ancestry.com Orphan Train Message Board
The Ancestry.com genealogy website hosts a message board for riders and families to connect and share information regarding the Orphan Train. This is an excellent resource for individual research.