Friday, April 30, 2010

How to Find Poor Ancestors!

They Didn’t Own Land

Recently in assisting descendants of James Case from Missouri it was clear the internet and database had been exhausted.  Poor James Case did not own land, but had a large family.  His widow remarried but he was never in the census records with his family. The researchers were a bit disappointed when I informed them that they had not hit a brick wall, but that they needed to begin digging in the “forgettable” documents that records the lives of poor people.  There’s a sleuth of them – not always with the title “Poor People” highlighted, even though Poorhouse Story is easily identifiable.  

The workshop “Tho They Were Poor, They May Have Been Rich in Records” presented by Paula Stuart Warren provided researchers with a list of possible records to search when trying to find that allusive “poor” ancestor. 

Warren encouraged the frustrated researchers to expand their search to the rich-filled minutes, court records and poor relief records that are available, but usually not indexed.  These records are available for the defective, dependent, delinquent and orphans. 

The best place to begin your search for these records is the Family History Library Catalog using the Place Search and filtering by the county/state you are searching; or using the keywords, poor or poorhouses.  

Accurate, Accessible Answers


  1. It's a good idea to also check the warnings out lists, and sometimes the fornication records list women and infants not listed elsewhere. I don't know if these records exist outside of New England, but they can be invaluable for finding the disenfranchised or the paupers.

  2. Thanks Heather. These are some great records and can be found in all of the colonies.