PERSONAL NOTE FROM THE POORHOUSE LADY: Please read this carefully
and thoughtfully and creatively!.
I have distilled and tried to convey here the result of several years of
intensive and extensive research into poorhouse records.
This has been done in the hope that this will empower you to be able to do
similar research yourself.
The POORHOUSE STORY website will never be able to find and publish
on-line all records for all poorhouses.
(I receive many requests each week asking whether I can tell people where to
find specific poorhouse records. While I will often be able to make suggestions, you
will probably need to do your own research about poorhouses of which we
currently have no knowledge. When you find such information, it is our sincere
hope that you will share it with other readers through our website.)
Thanks & Good Luck!
"Digging for ancestors is hard work!" -- but FUN and fulfilling.
|If you wonder why you should even
concern yourself with poorhouse records, you might want to read
TO GENEALOGISTS. PHL
[Note: Links on this page will launch new
browser windows. After reading what you find there, just close the window to be
1. Poorhouses were surveyed for the federal census; we have a
page to instruct you how to look in the census reports for poorhouses.
2. Annual Town Reports (or similar type reports)
can contain a great amount of information about poorhouses
and about poor relief to people receiving relief while living in the community
but not in the poorhouse.
|We have published a very detailed article
about how these records can be used and what they can yield. We used
the reports of the Town of Waterford in Oxford County, Maine, 1892 as
our example. We strongly recommend that you take the time to read this
3. Many states established a State Board of Charities
(usually by the 1870s) to administer poorhouses.
You may be able to find on-line references to those by using a search engine;
enter the phrase "State Board of Charities" + (the name of your
But your state archives will surely be able to tell you whether such a board
and what of their records are available.
|Once such a board was established in a state, poorhouse records became
much more uniformly organized. Usually these boards required some
standard form for recording the admission, discharge, or death of
individual poorhouse inmates.
We have published a rather extensive article
about such Inmate Registration Certificates for New York State.
Reading about those may help you know what to look for in your own state
4. We have provided a list
of links to STATE ARCHIVES in all fifty states.
(And we try to keep it up-dated! If you find a link not working, please
let us know.)
We have consulted the State Archives in
several states and have
listed the Poorhouse Holdings for the following
(And we hope to continue adding this information for more and more states.)
5. Expert Genealogical Writers have published guides
to records (which may include poorhouse records) for specific states
These have proven to be extremely helpful to me. But I am not aware of all such
published guides to records.
So you may need to contact your own state genealogical and/or historical
societies to see if such a guide is available for
One of the most useful to me has been --
OHIO GENEALOGICAL GUIDE,
by Carol Willsey Bell. Published by Bell Books, Youngstown,
6th edition, copyright 1995.
Note: This contained a brief but excellent history of poorhouses in
Ohio and also listed the poorhouse record holdings known to her.
6. During the 1930's and 1940's, WPA
INVENTORIES OF COUNTY ARCHIVES were written by
people who were employed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
These documented very precisely the government records held in
various county archives.
They can be wonderful sources of information about
Note: They merely establish what records existed at that time,
and where they were housed at that time.
(For further information, we have posted an explanation
and an example of one state's WPA inventories.)
You can probably find out from your own state archives or state library
whether these exist for your county.
We hope this helps! Good Luck with your Search!