This is Part 7 of The Orphan in My Family Tree. It is the true tale of my ongoing search for the parents of my great great grandpa Fritz, who was orphaned in New York City in the late 1870s and sent, at the age of seven, to live with a foster family in Bow Valley, Nebraska.
The first six posts in this series are both a summation of and reflection about the past decade I have spent winnowing through records and learning about the orphans and neighborhoods of 1880s New York City, the organizations involved in placing out those orphans, and the immigrant experience at this time in our nation’s history.
Looking at this research with fresh eyes after reaching a number of dead ends, I decided to focus my search once again on newspaper articles about orphans sent to Nebraska. Given the geographic location of Bow Valley, Nebraska, so close to the borders of Iowa and South Dakota, I looked at the nearest city newspapers at the time. The Sioux City Daily Journal seemed a great place to start, and I began my search in the very narrow span of time between June 1880, when Fritz may or may not have been in the Five Points House of Industry, and June 1881, simply because one year seemed like a good time span to start with. I searched my one year date range for the Sioux City Daily Journal using the following keywords, in various combinations: orphan, orphanage, New York City, homeless, train, Catholic, and children. Depending on the combination of keywords, I came up with either no articles matching or nearly a hundred. I worked my way through the largest number of matches article by article, finding uplifting fiction serials about orphans, stories of wayward children up to no good, and finally a story titled Juvenile Immigrants that made my heart beat a little faster.
From Juvenile Immigrants.
Capt. P. C. Dooley of the New York Catholic Protective society arrived in the city yesterday with thirteen bright lads ranging from 4 to 8 years of age, on his way to the Bow valley, in Cedar county, Neb. Father Uhing will take charge of the boys there and see to their distribution among the farmers who have agreed to adopt them…
Whether our Fritz is one of this group of orphans or not, I am excited to have found a few new clues to pursue. I can’t wait to let you know more about each of these clues and the questions they invite:
- Who was Captain P. C. Dooley?
- What is the New York Catholic Protective society? Could this be the New York Catholic Protectory?
- Are there records the society, or Protectory, have available online or that I could request?
- Will the Archives of the Archdiocese of New York have any information about this? (Reaching out to a librarian — in this case an archivist — is always a good idea!)
- If I take another look at the Nebraska School Census records, will I find the other “bright lads” that went to the Bow valley in May 1881?
- Who is Father Uhing? Was he from the Bow valley area, Sioux City, or somewhere else?
- Will I find any of those “bright lads” from the article in the 1885 Nebraska Census if I search for family members listed as “orphan child” as Fritz was listed? Or perhaps children whose birthplace is listed as New York when the rest of the family was born in Germany or Prussia?
These new questions will lead to more clues and more dead ends, I am certain. I will keep posting my successes and frustrations. If you think of any questions to pursue based on the Juvenile Immigrants article, feel free to leave a comment!