Waifs, Foundlings, and Half-Orphans: Searching for America's Orphan Train Riders


During the Orphan Trains Era, 1854 until 1929, an estimated 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children and families were relocated from major metropolitan east coast cities to new homes in the "west" traveling aboard trains. Children relocated via these trains were called "Riders." In the early 1850s, the term "orphan" referred to children living without adult supervision. Some of these homeless children were actual orphans, while others were "half-orphans" with one parent living but unable to care for the child. A fair number of these "street" children were turned out to fend for themselves as the result of extreme poverty. This slender volume helps preserve the life experiences of the Riders-information that has impacted foster children today. The traumatic early lives of the Riders demonstrated the need of siblings to keep in touch if they must be separated and the positive affect that work has on self-esteem. Two moving first-hand accounts precede an examination of the impact of mass migration, followed by a discussion of orphanages and institutions, a helpful section on research and resources, and finally, references and a reading list. A full name index adds to the value of this work. Mary Ellen Johnson established the Orphan Train Riders Research Center and Museum, and founded the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America. This book is based upon her work.

Mary Ellen Johnson

(2005), 2007, 5½x8½, paper, index, 102 pp.

ISBN: 9781585499557