Orphan Train Research

Between 1850 & 1930 an estimated 250,000+ children in the United States were taken from institutions, off the streets,  or from their families and sent “west” to be placed out. Many descendants of these children are not aware they have an orphan train child in their family. Researching these children is often a difficult task.

 Placing out, as it was called, began in New York City by the Children's Aid Society, an organization founded by Charles Loring Brace.The first train left New York in 1854 with 46 children.

Orphan Train Research: 


National Orphan Train Complex

300 Washington St.
 Box 322
 Concordia, KS 66901
(785) 243-4471

List of Kentucky orphanages and children's homes: http://www.locatorsunlimited.com/agencies.htm 
The Adoption History Project: http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~adoption/index.html
Orphan Trains Mailing List: http://lists.rootsweb.ancestry.com/index/other/Orphans/ORPHAN-TRAINS.html

New York Organizations:

Brooklyn Home for Children
 c/o Forestdale Inc.
 67-35 112th St.
 Forest Hills, NY 11375
 Founded in 1884 as the Home for Destitute Children.

Brooklyn Nursery and Infants Hospital
 c/o Salvation Army Social Services for Children
 132 W. 14th St.
 New York, NY 10011
 (212) 352-5550

105 E. 22nd St.
New York, NY 10010
Attn: Adoption Search

The New York Historical Society: Guide to the Records of the Children's Aid Society 1836-2006 (bulk 1853-1947) MS 111


Access Restrictions: Researchers who wish to view restricted children's files or restricted volumes should contact the library of the New-York Historical Society. These researchers will be referred to a designated specialist from the Children's Aid Society who will interview the potential researcher to determine what he or she may consult and will then supervise the reader's use of the appropriate material. Guidelines currently in place for family history research at CAS, as determined by legal restrictions on the accessibility of adoption and foster care records, will be followed.  … Researchers who wish to view open materials will register as Manuscript users, and be allowed access to the unrestricted materials in the collection.

The Children's Village
(formerly the New York Juvenile Asylum)
Office of Alumni Affairs
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
(914) 693-0600, Ext. 1410
Founded in 1851.

Five Points House of Industry
 c/o Greer-Woodycrest and Hope Farm
 Crystal Run Village
 RD 2, Box 98
 Middletown, NY 10940

Record Information Department
 590 Avenue of the Americas
 New York, NY 10011 
Records Department (212) 206-4171
Founded as the New York Foundling Asylum in 1869.

New York Infant Asylum, 1865-1910, New York Nursery and Child's Hospital, 1910-1947
 c/o New York Weill Cornell Medical Center Archives
 525 E. 68th St, 25th Floor
 New York, NY 10021
 (212) 746-6072

New York Child's Foster Home Services
 c/o Sheltering Arms
 122 E. 29th St.
 New York, NY 10016

New York Infant Asylum, 1865-1910
New York Nursery and Child's Hospital, 1910-1947
c/o New York Weill Cornell Medical Center Archives
525 E. 68th St, 25th Floor
New York, NY 10021
Orphan Asylum Society of Brooklyn
c/o Brookwood Child Care (1960-present)
25 Washington St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Records back to 1855.
Original records were sent to:
320 Elmer L. Andersen Library
222 21st Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Founded in 1832

Orphan Asylum Society of New York City
 (Graham Windham Services to Families and Children)
 1 S. Broadway
 Hastings-on-Hudson, NY 10706
 (914) 478-1100


Children's Home of Cincinnati:
Records available at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives

Logan County Children's Home Bellefontaine, Ohio
c/o The Home for Little Wanderers
271 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
(888) HOME-321
Founded in 1865; merged with Boston Children's Services in 1999


  • Bracken, Jeanne Munn, editor, Orphan Trains: Leaving the Cities Behind. Carlisle Mass.: Discovery Enterprises, Ltd., 1997.
  • Holt, Marilyn Irvin. Orphan Trains-Placing Out in America. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.
  • Inskeep, Carolee R., The Children’s Aid Society of New York: An Index to the Federal, State, and Local Census Records of Its Lodging Houses (1855-1925) (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1996
  • Inskeep, Carolee R., The New York Foundling Hospital. An Index to the Federal, State, and Local CensusRecords of Its Lodging Houses (1870-1925). Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1995
  • Kidder, Clark, Orphan Trains & Their Precious Cargo: The Life’s Work of Rev. H.D. Clarke. Bowie Maryland, Heritage Books, Inc. 2001
  • O’Connor, Stephen, Orphan Trains: The Story of Charles Loring Brace and the Children He Saved and Failed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.
  • Reis, Jacob  book  How the Other Half Live  http://www.bartleby.com/208/
  • Warren, Andrea. We Rode the Orphan Trains. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

Adoption Resources:


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