Gleanings from the Maine History vol.51 winter 2016-17 article on poorhouses and town farms… and census records and town reports and other knowledge I’ve picked up over the years……
You may find inhabitants of the poorhouse or town farm listed in the census or town reports. They were sometimes listed as in-mates in the census. Some-times the town farm doubled as the city jail. Town reports may list residents of the town farm by name and associated expenses.
It was quite the conversation in the last 300+ years over who would pay for whom and under what circumstances. Remember the warnings out lists?
Churches helped with the poor and then the towns did also. The towns might make money allotments, deliver food supplies or…..they could also hold a public auction of the poor to see who would house them in exchange for work.
An 1821 Maine statute allowed the overseers of the poor to legally remove needy children from their parents and get them bound out in apprenticeships until the girls were 18 and the boys 21 years of age.
Apparently that was prevalent in America in the 1700 and 1800s’. It started to disappear in the mid 1800s, although it was still going on into the early 1900s in Maine.
The public funded homes were for the weak, old, disabled and families in dire straits. The town farm system was still going on in 1940 as you’ll find them listed in that census. Some towns forced fathers to leave the family so there would be no more pregnancies and children for the town to support.
The state might not help a child unless removed from a family and put under state care. The children may not have been orphans. The father may not have abandoned his family willingly. Obviously a family could be separated and scattered all over and difficult to find.