Orphan Train

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About us

Between 1850 and 1930, over 200,000 children were relocated from the East to the West coast on trains. Some were young enough that they lost knowledge of their families, ages and even their names. In many cases siblings were separated.

In 1853, a young minister, Charles Loring Brace, was concerned by the plight of so many wandering and orphaned children. He hoped to rescue poor and homeless children by finding good homes which wasn't always the case and prevent them from living on the streets of New York or even worse as inmates of the jails.

Brace founded the Children's Aid Society in 1853 arranging the trips for relocation which continued after his death. Children were sent via  trains, to homes from both the Children's Aid Society and the New York Foundling Hospital. Some male children were sent to agricultural areas of New York to learn farming skills to be useful to farmers out west.

This project hopes to identify ancestry of the orphan train riders and their descendants for those trying to learn more about their family history and connect to other members of their family.

Using genetics it is hoped that siblings can locate each other or descendants of orphan train children can find out their ancestral groups.