Monday, December 9, 2013

Was your ancestor on an orphan train?

In my last Sunday Psalms post, I wrote about my Great Grandmother. I'm afraid I may have rushed to judgement about the behavior of Minerva, the woman who adopted her. You see, I only had a piece of the story, but then something amazing happened. The day after writing about her, I was at the library to get some American History movies and one title caught my eye: The Orphan Trains.
                                                          The what?                                        

All I knew is that after Grandma was sent to the orphanage, a man put her on a train with other children. I watched the movie over the weekend and was inspired and heartbroken all at once - mostly heartbroken. I had no idea that between 1853 and 1929, over 120,000 neglected and abandoned children, mainly from New York City, were resettled on farms across the Midwest.

The effort was started by a young minister named Charles Loring Brace. Charles couldn't stand seeing the suffering and often abused children called "Street Arabs." He wanted to give them a fresh start far away from life on the street. He founded a charity called the Children's Aid Society and worked to find new homes for them. It's now considered to be the start of the modern foster care system.

My great-grandmother got swept up into the Orphan Train movement and was resettled in Michigan. According to, one in twenty-five Americans is the descendant of an orphan train rider. If you've discovered an orphan train rider in your family and want to get more information, here are some sites to help you start your research:

                                                                                          Happy Hunting!

Family History Tip: Even small words and details written in family accounts can yield big search results. Spend time digging into and around them and you may be rewarded with a treasure trove of family gems!

1 comment:

  1. One in twenty-five Americans! Wow. This is so amazing! Can't wait to read more :)