52 Documents in 52 Weeks #46: Orphanage/Children’s Home Records

Back in October, 52 Documents featured guardian bonds, posted by those who became legal guardians of orphaned children, even though those children frequently had a living mother. Only their fathers had passed away.

In earlier days, orphaned children whose mothers/extended families weren’t financially able to care for them were bound out to learn a trade so as not to become a burden on society.

By the late 1800s, orphanages, sometimes called children’s homes, were established and maintained formal records of their charges. However, locating these records might be difficult to impossible because most of these institutions are no longer in existence and any records have been lost or destroyed.

The Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky records are about the only digitized records I was able to find online. This collection was housed on the Kenton County Public Library website, but as of December 2021, is no longer available. A few places have microfilmed records so check FamilySearch’s catalog to see if the Family History Library might have them.

Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky, Book 2

This page, from Book 2, contains four entries, but includes five children because entry #2, is for Alice and James Miller.

Just reading about all these children is a bit depressing.

Entry #492 at the top of the page notes little William E. Middleton was born 8 January 1894 in Dryridge, Grant County, Kentucky to Daniel and Annie Middleton, Protestant Americans. It gives further information: Father dead. Mother sick. William was admitted on 17 June 1896 and his death is noted on 8 August 1896, just seven weeks later.

Entry #493 and 494, siblings Alice and James Miller were still in the Children’s Home at the time of the 1900 census.

Their parents were William and Mary L. Miller and they were placed in the home by court order. It states that the father is German and the mother Irish. Neither parent could be identified in the 1900 census.

Entry #495 is Edward Polttering, born 7 January 1889 in Covington, Kentucky, which is in Kenton County. His parents are George Polttering, a German Catholic and his mother, Mattie, a German American Protestant. It noted: Father worthless. Mother can not support the child. I found no further record of Edward or Mattie, but there is a George Poltering living in Cincinnati, Ohio, listed in an 1897 city directory.

The final entry on the page, #496, is Annie Brodie, born 11 May 1886 in Covington, Kentucky. Parents are John and Ellen (Conrad) Brodie, Protestant Americans. Note: Father does not support. Mother allowed child to beg. Annie was placed in the home by court order. Neither Annie nor her parents have been found in the 1900 census.

If you find that a family was broken apart by death or economic circumstances and you suspect that one or more children might have been left at an orphanage, check local county records, historical societies and local public libraries to locate any possible extant records.

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