Who were they?

Saturday, December 6, 1997

Here are a few questions and some information concerning orphans and Orphan Accounts.

Perhaps some ghotes member or a visitor to this site who is knowledgeable in, or just curious about, orphans and their Accounts in the 18th century would be willing to write an essay on this topic. (Please?)

Meanwhile, here are some comments to start...


I'm a bit confused about the orphans accounts and need one of the more knowledgeable Goats to help straighten me out. (that's a big job I know)

Circa 1800, who was considered an orphan? Did it only require the death of one parent or both to be put on the orphans list? Was the size of their inheritance a factor?

I have found the Orphans Accounts to be very helpful in identifying parents, children, approximate death dates, and etc. and have assumed that both parents were deceased in order for the child(ren) to be so listed. However, recent findings have led me to question that assumption and there may be several incorrectly estimated death dates in my files. Can someone help me with this?


My understanding of orphans were that they were fatherless and could be both fatherless and motherless as well. Mothers would often remarry soon after they were widowed and since all property of the widow's now belonged to the new husband, it was not prudent to have the step father in charge of the orphan's estate, although this was sometimes done. They would not have orphan's accounts unless they had an estate, athough they probably would be called an orphan, estate or no estate. In lack of an estate, the orphan would often be bound out.
This is my understanding, and I welcome any corrections.

I've got "orphans" whose father was dead but whose mother was living. Their father's sister in Accomack was named their guardian; although I believe they continued to live with their remarried mother in Northampton. At the marriage of their aunt/guardian, the court appointed their step-father; the court records show the reason for the change as her marriage. Without knowing the family, one would be ready to put money on the aunt being the orphans' mother. In many cases where the mother was still living, the guardian's duty was mostly to watch over the children's estates or property and report to the court, not necessarily to look after the children.

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