Saturday, September 27, 2014

Researching Orphanages and Children's Homes

Children Institutions in Kansas City 1918 - 1920
Keeping in mind that Kansas City was a railroad station hub, the second largest in the nation, competing only with Chicago, in the 1918-1920 era, know that it also was also a hub for abandoned children and maternity homes.  The 21 April 1919 Kansas City Times article named the following orphanages: The Children’s Home, The Life Line Mission (KS), The Negro Orphans” Home, the Gillis Orphans” Home (MO). However, know that there were plenty more. Many of the children were abandoned without a name or any clue to parentage.

One Well-Known Children’s Home – Life Line Mission
According to the 17 Feb 1918 Kansas City Star newspaper, Life Line Mission was “an institution devoted to the care of children under four years old.”  Turning to local newspapers using the mission names as the keywords, may lead the family researchers to uncovering an ancestor’s past.  The local newspaper may be your key to adoptions and misplaced children research. Plus you may learn a bit more about the law and social practices.

For one, it was clearly illegal to bring destitute persons to Kansas. A 12 Feb 1918 Kansas City Times article gives details on the arrest of Dr. Hartman for bringing three “destitute persons” - two women and a baby- to Rosedale, KS. Dr. Hartman owned a maternity home in the Rosedale township (later part of Kansas City, Kansas) that borders the Kansas City, MO. state line. But much more can be learned about the children’s home that Hartman used to drop off several children.   

Children of Life Line Mission: 1918-1920
A Kansas City Star and Kansas City Times keyword search for Life Line Mission from 1918 - 1920 proffered several children’s names.

Francis, Jack and Wallace, 20 July 1920, Kansas City Times, Three Babes Want A Home. One is 5 years old (Francis), Another Blue-Eyed and Chubby; Third Seldom Cries,  Jack and Wallace were not yet one year old. Both Jack and Wallace were left at Union Station (KCMO) “The mother of Wallace is known…” Ten month old Jack is dark complexion, with black eyes and dark brown hair “He was given to a woman to hold and she found she had a baby on her hands that did not belong to her.”  pg. 11, Co 1.  Wallace’s mother was 18 years old with black hair and dark eyes and small of stature and visits her son. Three month old “Wallace is blue eyed a [?] blond and fat.”

Emanuel Lissner, 15 Oct 1918, Kansas City Times. …the 3 year old son of Louis Lissner died yesterday of pneumonia at the Life Line Mission, Kansas. He had a sister Gertrude Lisner. Funeral services held at home of Albert Lissner, 1323 Summit St. Buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

Stultz children 27 Feb 1919, Kansas City Times. Belle, 5 years old, Beulah 3 years old. Seek Father of Two Children. Homes for Kiddies Will Be Obtained if Relatives Are Not Found. Father Lem Stultz. Mother died of influenza.

William J. Harvey, 29 Sept 1919, Kansas City, Times.  William J. Harvey about 5 months old was left on a porch with a note and a bundle of clothes. His father was “lost in the service.”

Infant Child Sydnor, 9 Feb 1920, Kansas City Times. Mrs. Jessie Sydnor’s Child Ill at Life Line Mission (KS). Mother Jessie Sydnor.

Peter Lyons, 28 Aug 1919, Kansas City, Times. Peter Lyons, four year old son of Mrs. May Lyons was at the Mission for one week. While his mother was sick, he was to stay with his aunt, sister of May Lyons, Mrs. Wm. Hunter.  However, he “became lost.” Peter was found wandering the street, but was returned to his mother.

Striegel Keota Eagle, Keokuk County, Iowa, 11 April 1918. Elmer Pipes grandson of Mrs. Striegel of Keota, Iowa.  He was kidnapped by his mother, Louise Pipes Quinette. Father [I or J] S Pipes. I. S. Pipes divorced his wife 4 years prior. Note: appears as Pipes, may read Piper.

Other Places to Research
The Missouri Valley Special Collections is chocked full of hints, tips and surprises.  In narrowing 1920’s children’s home, we turned to the Jackson County Institutional Homes documents that provides us with the Jackson County institutions [under the direct control of the County Court," including the "McCune Home for Boys, Jackson County Home for the Aged and Infirm, the Jackson County Girls' Parental Home, the Jackson County Home for Aged and Infirm Negroes, the Jackson County Home for Negro Boys, the Detention Home. This collection includes the photos.

Adult Residences
Of course not all housing institutions were for children. The Helping Hand Institute was an institution at 523 Grand Avenue in Kansas City, MO for "worthy homeless men" and some women and children not able to find work. Again, the newspaper will be the researcher’s friend.

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, Accessible Answers. 


  1. Was there ever a children's home in Missouri called Haddon Hall?

  2. Yes... There was a Haddon Hall as early as 1910. At that time it was more of a medical facility. Later it at least housed boys 16 and up as housing for workers. This building was on 1315 Linwood. You may find out more by contacting the Missouri Valley Room at the KCMO Public Library. That's a great place to start. However, know that many of these records were not salvaged and those that were are not centralized. As you probably know, a3Genealogy is a for-hire research firm. Let me know if we can help you with this project.

  3. I am trying to find a comprehensive list of orphanages in Wyandotte County, KS in 1900? My great-grandma was adopted from there (she was born September 1900, was left on the doorsteps of the orphanage at only a few days old), but when she went to try and retrieve her records (sometime as an adult, no idea when?) the orphanage had burnt down? I have no idea what the orphanage was even called. My grandpa always referred to it as the Wyandotte County Orphanage, but I don't seem to have any luck using this name?
    Thank you!

    1. Hmmm...we join you in wanting a comprehensive list of orphanages (anywhere?) Based on your info above, we would start with a newspaper search to find out the one's that burnt down. We would also look at the 1900 census to find the nearest orphanage at the time of her birth. If you wish for a3Genealogy to assist, just let us know!

  4. My Father and siblings were listed in 1930 census as being in The Children's Home On north 8th st. Later they were back with their mother any info and or how I might access records would be helpful

    1. Most often, the answer is yes there's documentation. However, most were not centralized resulting in each case being individualized as a research project. Individual facility records may be found at the county, local or state archives. Many of these facilities changed hands, so that too must be researched while seeking out documents. That can be uncovered, sometimes, through newspaper search. This is typically a 10 hour search for a3Genealogy Research. If you need our assistance, just reach out via email or call.

  5. My dad had a half-sister that was sent to the State Home in Carrollton, Mo in 1927. I have been unable to locate the "keeper of the records". I have contacted state agencies, State Archives, and State Historical Society. In the 1930 census, she was not listed at the Home; I assume she had passed or was fostered/adopted. Any suggestions how I can find out what happened? Thanks.

    1. I'm assuming you are referring to the children's Home. I would look at court records and county court minutes. There may also be a Guardianship record for her, or a newspaper of the court and allowance of $$$ for her care. It is possible that you will have to do a formal court request to release the information, but genealogy or family history is normally accepted. Please let us know how it goes.

  6. I have been looking for my biological son who was born the early days of October, 1969 at the KU Medical Center, Kansas City, KS. The adoption was made thru Catholic Charities Sisters of Charity where I lived during the summer in the north part of Kansas City, MO. I am awaiting results of a 23&Me DNA test & am hoping to get more info. However, I'm told these adoptions went before the court on the Missouri side where I lived at the time. I would appreciate any assistance you might give me as I am wanting to share medical info with my son before I die.

  7. Do you have any information on the “ Julia AW Baker Children's Home “

    1. Ah...the Julia AW Baker Children's Home of KC is well known. However records, news and photos are spotty at best. If you need a3Genealogy to assist you with a research project just drop us an email of the details and we forward to you a quote.

      If you are wanting to attempt this research yourself, I suggest starting with newspapers for your timeframe. Many of the children were transferred to Judge Porterfield's pet-project. Unfortunately, Porterfield was not a conventional Judge, and many or his court proceedings have not been uncovered. We have had about 70% success rate in researching the wards of these two homes.
      Let me know if a3genealogy can assist with your project (please provide details).