The legacy of the famed Orphan Trains that began during the first days of the Children’s Aid Society in New York lives on today. An estimated 150,000 children took part in the Orphan Train Movement from 1854 to 1929, giving them new lives and a bright future by removing them from the poverty and danger of the city streets.
Charles Loring Brace, the founder of the New York’s Children Aid Society was the leader of the Orphan Train model. He believed that in order to give children a chance of escaping a lifetime of suffering, that they should be placed with morally upright farm families. Charles Brace’s work with the Orphan Train movement is fascinating history – living history - as the lives and legacies of his efforts continue today.
The Orphan Train Heritage Society of America Inc (OTHSA) is an organization formed in 1987 to provide a clearinghouse of information of the lives and legacy of the Orphan Train experience. OTHSA maintains the Orphan Train Riders Research Center, a museum with an archive of newspapers, census records, oral histories, letters, and photographs pertaining to the Orphan Train accounts. These genealogists and historians seek to salvage and share information on the Orphan Train riders, and the extended biological families that are alive today.
An estimated 30,000 children were homeless in New York City in the 1850s, when Charles L. Brace began this historic effort. That’s a lot of personal stories, and after a century and a half, generation after generation of families tie their roots back to the Orphan Trains.