A Research Dive: The Hebrew Orphan Asylum

Posted on January 24, 2018 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

A few weeks ago, I received an information request about the Hebrew Orphan Asylum.  The person wanted to know if we could find information on if her grandmother and any of her siblings that had been placed in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and why. She said that family lore said they had been there, but they had no proof of this. This began another interesting journey through the collections.

The Hebrew Orphan Asylum, c. 1870s. JMM 1984.118.1

The Hebrew Orphan Asylum which was established in 1873 by the Hebrew Benevolent Society, was located on the outskirts of the city (at the time) in Calverton Heights. It would stay at the same location until 1923 when the Hebrew Orphan Society and the Hebrew Children’s Sheltering and Protective Society, which merged in 1921, moved out to what is now Levindale on the recommendation of the newly formed Associated Jewish Charities. With in a few years the orphanage was closed with the children entering the fostering system and the residents of the Hebrew Home for the Aging moving in.

Because the person requesting information had done her research prior to contacting us I knew that sometime between the 1900 and 1910 her grandmother would have been in the orphanage. I began by looking at what we have in our collection, and identified a small book that listed all the girls and boys in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. I was excited when I found her grandmothers name with the date of arrival and discharge next to her name.

This book has a list of all the children age when they arrived and most have a discharge date as well.

I was not expecting what I found next, two large books in good condition that contained the admissions records for the children from 1873-1896 & 1896-1917. Each book had an entry for each child providing information on the father, mother, siblings, reason for being placed, general health and additional information on family and behavior. The amount of information on each child varies but it allows for a picture of the child to begin. What was interesting is like most orphanages of the time the majority of orphans are “half” orphans, with either a mother or father placing them in orphanage for lack of funds or the ability to care for the child.  Glued and placed in between the pages of the book where additional documents which added to the record. Including court documents, medical records and most important letters of discharge. It was amazing to see where the children went, often home to a parent, taken in by an older sibling when they were able to care for them, a relative or on to a boarding house to stay at because they had a job.

One of the earliest records in the book on Moses Blum, one of the only full orphans in the records.

I was able to locate the record for this women’s grandmother and her great uncle, why they where placed and that two years later their mother came back for both children. The location of the home they where being discharged to and any notes on behavior during their stay. Like many children that had a living parent there where reports of them running away from the orphanage to their parent. One book was able to put to rest a families questions on their history and gave documented proof that the stories where true.

Most children under reason for admission was listed as insufficiency of means, poverty or like the above picture an ill parent.

Court record for the admission of two of her children Lena, age 6, and Hyman, age 4 into the Hebrew Orphan Asylum.

This request was accepted and Morris Fedder was given to the care of his sister.

A request to release Louis Cohen’s children into his care.

Not all children were placed in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum; often the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Baltimore would give additional funds to the family, mostly widowed women, so they could keep their children with them at home.

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7 Comments

  1. K. Friedman says:

    Hi!
    I would love to pay you to research my grandmother, Viola R. Kunle, who was admitted to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum on August 14, 1907.
    I would like any and all records you could find about her.
    Please let me know if you can do this and how much it could cost.
    If you do not do this, can you refer me to someone who could do this?

    Thank you!
    K. Friedman

  2. PAULA H DAVIS says:

    My family would love to research our father, Jack Hirsch born March 11. 2013 in Atlanta, Ga who entered the Hebrew Orphan Home along with his sisters, Jeannette Hirsch and Martha Hirsch as young children. His father Benjamin Hirsch brought them to the home. Please advise if you can locate anything on our family. Many thanks,
    Paula Hirsch Davis

  3. Linda J. Miller says:

    Please tell me what the charge is for during research. Family stories tell of my great grandmother being gotten from a orphanage in Baltimore to come and live with a family that lives in Hague VA in Westmoreland County VA. The only info I have is her name from my grandmother’s marriage license. Clara Belle Hammond. That is her maiden name and there were no Hammonds in Hague Va. Her oldest daughter was born in 1891 so I am reasoning that she was there before that time. Please do don’t do any research before you tell me the cost. Thank You Linda J. Miller

  4. Hilary Grilley says:

    I think my grandmother, Bessie Weinstein, was there in 1913 when she was about 9 years old. Her mother’s name might have been Annie. She had a brother but I don’t believe he would have been with her, Henry Weinstein. Her birthdate was 28 Aug 1903.

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