In our culture it has been primarily only those who have avoided poverty whom history has documented in ways that make it possible to know of them or to know much about their lives in order to have the opportunity to acknowledge them and honor them.

To preserve, identify, and make more accessible the history and records  which will make it possible for us to better know of those people whose poverty often relegated them to the poorhouses of 19th century America in order that we may count them among the ancestors whom we attempt to more fully honor and respect.  


Preservation Poorhouse Records
identifying and returning privately held poorhouse records to the public domain (through soliciting their donation, purchase, microfilming)

assuring that archivists, librarians, local records management officers, and others are aware of the inclusion of poorhouse records in "record retention schedules" and that they comply with them

advocating for the inclusion of poorhouse records in such schedules (where they are not currently included)

  Poorhouse Cemeteries
providing a forum for people to ANNOUNCE cemetery preservation attempts

assisting people (who are involved with such attempts) to obtain better MEDIA COVERAGE

providing  the posting of related PETITIONS on the PHS

(regarding the public interest in such efforts and about previously successful preservation efforts)

  Poorhouse Histories Many previously published history books (especially county histories) have already included notes about the establishment and history of poorhouses.
  Poorhouse Buildings
providing a forum for people to ANNOUNCE poorhouse preservation attempts

assisting people (who are involved with such attempts) to obtain better MEDIA COVERAGE

providing  the posting of related PETITIONS on the PHS

(regarding the public interest in such efforts and about previously successful preservation efforts)


Identification Poorhouse 

training people who transcribe census records to recognize poorhouses in the census reports 

encouraging the identification of poorhouse listings in census reports presented on-line or in CDs, etc.

training archivists, librarians, and staffs of historical & genealogical societies how to locate poorhouse records

training archivists, librarians, and staffs of historical & genealogical societies how to utilize the WPA inventories to determine which poorhouse records were known to have survived to the mid-20th century (what they were called & where they were located at that time)

assisting all such personnel (mentioned above) as well as interested individual researchers with the provision of information such as may now be found  at The POORHOUSE STORY in the section called "Research Tips" (at the top of the page) on our RECORDS page at 


providing a forum for the announcement of the location and condition of such cemeteries

encouraging the inclusion of poorhouse cemeteries in such comprehensive cemetery lists as may be published in print or on websites in projects for the presentation of cemetery information

encouraging people to extract the information about poorhouses from existing histories 
providing a forum for the announcement of the location and condition of such poorhouse buildings

creating a database with information about currently existing poorhouse buildings -- classified as follows:
(1) threatened
(2) preserved (private commercial use)
(3) preserved (private residence)
(4) preserved (public -- other function)
(5) preserved (public -- museum, or other historic use)

Accessibility Note: While the provision of a clearing house for information about 19th century American poorhouses on The POORHOUSE STORY website provides a depository for information, there are severe limitations to the long-term role
which it can play. 

(1) The internet is an extremely temporary medium. (If this site has to be discontinued at some point and other more permanent depositories have not utilized it to make sure they have recorded the same information ... then that information may be lost!

(2) The internet is not easily accessible for everyone. (Many individuals who may have an interest in researching poorhouses may not have access to the internet, may not know of The POORHOUSE STORY, or may not even know how to use computers.

(3) The POORHOUSE STORY website is not yet a familiar resource to all of the people to whom researchers traditionally go for assistance. (For example, archivists, librarians, genealogists,  historians, or local officials who deal with requests to access local government records.)

For that reason we need to raise awareness of the website -- at the same time encouraging and assisting other (more permanent and/or accessible) programs to include poorhouse information among their concerns, their collections, and the information and advice they give to researchers who may find poorhouse information valuable.

We also need to encourage the inclusion of poorhouse information on other special interest websites. These include websites which focus on local history, census reporting, and cemetery reporting.

posting on our website: 
--poorhouse listings from general census reports
--records which were prepared as needed or
        required in the operation of specific poorhouse facilities
posting on our website:
--information about the location and condition of
   poorhouse cemeteries which still exist
--lists of those buried in poorhouse cemeteries
--announcements of cemetery preservation projects
posting on our website:
--historical notes about specific poorhouses
   (which have been extracted from local histories)
--reader notes about poorhouse experiences, memories, etc.
--historical information compiled specifically for the PHS
posting on our website:
--photographs and drawings of poorhouses
--announcements of poorhouse preservation projects
--a database relating the status of existing poorhouses
Note: We hope to very soon have a list of specific tasks and resources correlated with these goals.
Then we will be able to give volunteers the opportunity to offer their services or donations to address those specific tasks or  any lack in those necessary resources                                               
Note: While we have not here specifically addressed some issues which continue to be very important -- 

                                the Poorhouse Story  to remove the secrecy which shrouds the poorhouse                                
                                the Poorhouse Story   to dispel the negative image attached to poorhouse residence

It is our sincere belief that the knowledge people will gain (through exposure to the types of information presented on the website and through the recommendations of people who may have become more knowledgeable about poorhouses through the efforts of the website) will provide them with the truth about what poorhouses represented. And we further believe that the truth will have the power to dispel the secrecy and shame.

Probably the most important way we can do this is through education of our children. 

The introduction of students (kindergarten through high school and college) to genealogy represents a powerful tool for helping them understand themselves as cherished and valuable members of a multi-generational community of people who respect each other and who seek to communicate their history and traditions honestly. 

The POORHOUSE STORY will  try to provide teachers with tools which can help them offer this introduction to genealogy and local history (with an emphasis on local poorhouse history) in a manner which can teach and reinforce academic skills and strengthen social values. There is a special benefit to utilizing poorhouse study in such lessons -- Dealing with institutionalization and a population of people burdened with poverty in a respectful manner can help students whose families have experienced poverty or institutionalization (of whatever kind) feel less marginalized or less like "outsiders." The teaching of a history (especially a local history) which deals only with the Rich & Famous cannot do that!

Toward these goals, we have provided a new page called CLASSROOM CORNER.


                                                                                                                            The Poorhouse Lady

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