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July 13, 2008

Orphanages in New Amsterdam (New York City)

As early as 1653, New York City (formerly called New Amsterdam) recognized that it needed to care for the city's minor children, widows, and orphans. In February of that year, the Deacons of the Reformed Dutch Church were appointed to act as Orphan Masters. Their duties were to "keep their eyes open and look as Orphanmasters after widows and orphans..." They were to report to city officials who would appoint cuators if necessary to take care of the estates and effects of these widows and orphaned children.

On February 10, 1653, two men were appointed to act, not as Orphanmasters as originally intended, but as Overseers of Orphans. City officials continued to rule in the Orphan's Court, which had been created by Stuyvesant to "attend to orphans and minor children within the jurisdiction of this city [New York City]"

The Records of this Orphans' Court have been published as "Minutes of the Orphan Masters of New Amsterdam 1655-1663" by Berthold Fernow and "The Minutes of the Orphan Masters of New Amsterdam 1663-1668" translated by Edmund B. O'Callaghan. Genealogists can also consult The Records of New Amsterdam : From 1653 to 1674 Anno Domini by Berthold Fernow

Searchable Orphan Records can be found at

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