Yup!  We all rode in on the Coattails of Our Ancestors -- Rich and Poor!

The Poorhouse Story NEWSLETTER         1/5/2001 (Seventh issue)

Happy New Year!

Sorry about the delay getting this newsletter written and posted. Wonderful Holidays...preceded by a not so wonderful (and rare for our neck of the woods) ice storm which took down power lines and drove me out of my home for a couple of days ... pretty well wrecked the schedule. (Not that I manage to stay very disciplined about a schedule even under the best of circumstances.)  We hope that those of you enduring weather for which you may not have been prepared have found a way to stay warm and cozy somewhere. And we sincerely hope that 2001 is a great year for you ... and that all your brick walls (well, the genealogical ones!) come tumbling down.

By anybody’s reckoning … the year 2000 celebrants, or the year 2001 holdouts … by this time we are undeniably entering a new millennium. We hope that, upon reflection, we can all recognize the opportunities (both those which were welcomed … and those which were unwelcomed!) for growth which were realized last year. While this rather undisciplined soul long ago gave up on making New Year’s “resolutions” … I have come to realize that it is more important to carefully examine what I am doing. Since so much of my time and attention has been directed toward The POORHOUSE STORY -- please forgive (and, if you are one of the many generous people who have have joined with me in this endeavor … please  join me with your own)  further indulgence in ...


I often have the opportunity to explain the purpose of this website. And that sometimes frustrates me because I think I have already done that! And sometimes I am impatient  enough to snap, “It’s right there on the homepage!"  So...apparently I have not yet done the best job of verbalizing what we are attempting here. [OK.  Go ahead. Click on http://www.poorhousestory.com and look over to the right where we have stated Site Purpose and Site Goals.]

Now, the role of this website as a clearinghouse for information about 19th century American poorhouses is very definitely (and measurably!) a functioning reality! And we are certainly making records of those poorhouses much more accessible for genealogical or historical research, as well as making the history of the poorhouse more well known. (I am less certain, however,  whether we are actually making any substantial progress toward removing the secrecy which shrouds the poorhouse or dispelling the negative image attached to poorhouse residence.)

A New Year always provides the opportunity to review what we have been doing and to evaluate whether it is actually taking us where we want to go. But The Poorhouse Lady … (and, by the way, it always feels a little schizophrenic to refer to myself in the third person—until I remember that I need to always realize that the work of this website is only one role I have in my life) … has recently been presented with another compelling reason to get real specific about purpose, goals, and objectives.

During the past few weeks we have begun to receive e-mail from people who have read about The POORHOUSE STORY in their local newspapers!

Here is (so far <grin>) the best newspaper article  which has referred to this website as the background source for poorhouse information. The reporter actually tracked me down (out-of-town) for comments the day after Christmas!

Now that has been quite a “confront”! I had never anticipated that would happen … (duh!) … nor imagined what it would be like or how we might have to conduct the site more deliberately in that limelight.  Now I am reading other people’s words about what we are up to here! Suddenly it has become much more important to be able to effectively verbalize the things that motive me …  and now (because so many of you are volunteering) us … to do the things I and we do.

I have to confess something.  Whenever I have had to sit through lectures or read articles that get around to insisting that it is important to define and understand the difference between “goals” and “objectives” … I usually got bored and fell asleep. But recently a new volunteer (who is a public relations specialist and a college professor) pointed out that as we receive this publicity … I am being cast in the role of “spokesperson” and The POORHOUSE STORY website is becoming a platform for … exactly what?!

I am going back to some of those definitions to provide a framework in which to more clearly examine and state what this website effort really involves. And I invite you to do the same and share your insights with me … and perhaps with the rest of the people who contribute to or utilize this site. [Note: If the vocabulary I am going to use below is not helpful to you … or sends you to sleep! … just ignore it. And think about it your own way.]

A rather simplistic definition which I found is this – A goal is defined as an ultimate achievement and an objective is the step that helps you reach that goal. OK, that is helpful; but a more thought provoking definition added -- A goal is a solution to a problem. It could be either long-term or short-term. A goal is the reversal of a problem statement, usually beginning with the word “to”.

That last one seemed strange to me at first. But I guess it really is applicable here. There  truly is a “problem” which we are trying to solve through The POORHOUSE STORY. To state the problem requires that we first back up a bit to get some perspective.

It is common to describe the importance of history with references to an assumption that goes something like … “If we do not know our history we are doomed to repeat it.” As for the growing appeal of genealogy … Alex Haley, the author of  “Roots”, spoke of  “knowing one's roots, and thus coming  to better know who one is.”

However … I suspect that much of what underpins both our love of history and our pursuit of genealogy is a drive to better know and understand those of our fellow human beings from whom we feel the separation of time or social condition. It is a desire for the kind of completion which heals our sense of being isolated and somehow out-of-balance which fuels our determination to  “get over brick  walls” so we can  experience relationship or unity.

   (At this point I need to acknowledge that .. for me … it is impossible to express my feelings without talking about matters which, for lack of a better word, we can call spiritual. I would like to avoid them appearing religious because that tends to be somewhat exclusive. But I think that those of you whose religion may differ from my own…or who may not embrace what you consider religion…probably share a sense of this spiritual perception…whatever you call it.)

I believe it is true that every human being is loved, valued and respected in the eyes of the Creator and deserving of the respect of all other human beings … and that we are all related in a very special way. A respectful honoring of  “all my relations” … or all other beings (both present and passed away) … is required for us to experience the unity which is our birthright and our challenge to realize.

A desire to “honor the ancestors” is present in most (maybe all) cultures, but it is not currently very strong in the dominant culture in the United States. It is growing however, and it is especially to be celebrated in ethnic groups where it is emerging after many generations of seeming futile. I am especially grateful to the teachings of  “Native Americans” for having kept that tradition .. from which I have been privileged to learn much.

OK. Back to our attempt to clearly establish the …


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.

(To be continued … in next month’s newsletter … when we will look at specific goals and clarify a rationale for the kinds of activities in which it might be appropriate for the The POORHOUSE STORY website … and for The Poorhouse Lady … and perhaps for some of her many and much appreciated volunteers … to engage during the New Year.)

We wish you Peace, Joy & Love during (can you believe it!) 2001.

Linda & Maddie

      Table of STATISTICS and NEW ITEMS ADDED  to The PHS Website
          (since 5/8/2000)                            (since 11/30/2000)                   

Total Visits to Homepage  
   as of 11/30/2000 -- nearly 27,500
as of 01/05/2001 -- nearly 31,500
E-mail Subscribers to Monthly Newsletter 
     as of 11/28/2000 -- 377       
as of 01/05/2001 -- 405   
(based on readers submissions)
During the 1930s and 1940s (during the Great Depression) the federal government provided the services of people in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to inventory government records in the state and county archives and repositories of many states. This is a terrific resource for both historians and genealogists.

A group of OHIO volunteers have helped us extract and transcribe notes about the poorhouse records in those WPA Inventories for Ohio. They provide a great deal of local poorhouse history as well. 

It would be great if some of you from other states could read about this project and perhaps initiate a similar project (with our help) if you are able to locate similar WPA inventories for your state.  

(We didn’t create them; we just show them!)
Poorhouse draws wealth of interest
Hillsdale site inspired notable poem

published in The Toledo Blade 1/5/01
link to on-line article

Reporter interviewed PHL and used The POORHOUSE STORY for
background information.

The poem is one we have previously posted here.

NEWS ALERTS No new alerts have been posted ... mostly because of a huge backlog in processing such information. Stay tuned! We will give this a top priority next month. 
HONORED STATES current KANSAS (read about their project here)
  previous Pennsylvania, Illinois, Tennessee
Picture Postcards/Photos/Illustrations    
  CT New Haven
  IL Livingston
  KS Jewell
  MI Alpena/Jackson/Macomb
  NY Lewis
  OH Loraine/Summit/Wayne
  PA Clearfield/Potter/Schuylkill/Somerset
Notes from Readers/Local Notes  CT New Haven
  KS Woodson
  MO Miller
  MS Monroe
  NY Lewis
  PA Berks/Schuylkill
Historical Documents IO Bremer
  NH Sullivan
  OH Portage
1824 Yates Report & 1857 Investigation
& poorhouse history
NY Tompkins
Poorhouse Records OH See Featured Articles ...above.
Cemetery Lists OH Fairfield
Poorhouse Resident lists from CENSUS
new material or off-site links to the web)
  1920 KY Ohio
  1850 MD Worcester
The Poorhouse in Literature
JED, THE POORHOUSE BOY by Horatio Alger, Jr.

Read the book review on The Poorhouse in Literature page with the link to the left. This is an often overlooked page which we hope to reposition next month. Don't miss it!

STATE ARCHIVES Holdings new none added
  previous Illinois/Michigan/Minnesota/Ohio/Oregon
New York/Pennsylvania
Thanks for your continued support.
Linda Crannell                                                        
(aka=The Poorhouse Lady)