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The Orphan Trains

Reprinted from the September 2009 newsletter:

There were about 200,000 orphans in the United States in the 1850s, with as many as 30,000 living on the streets of New York City. It was decided that they and the cities they lived in would be better off if they were sent to the Midwest to farm families to help provide labor. The efficient way to get the children off the streets of New York and Boston and to the Midwest was by rail. The “Orphan Train” was born. Between 1854 and 1929 at least 100,000 orphaned, abandoned and homeless children were sent that way. Many were taken into loving homes but others were treated as indentured slaves and abused. Most went to the Midwest but all states and even Canada received children.

Many lost their birth certificates and other important documents. The National Orphan Train Complex hopes to preserve what history is left and is collecting artifacts and stories from those who were part of the Orphan Train Movement. It is hoped that this will help people trace their roots. To learn more about this period in history or search for family connections, visit