Genealogy for adoptees can be a difficult journey. A train ticket from 1856 and one of our most popular Genealogy Gems Book Club titles helped one woman solve an adoption family mystery. Here’s her story.
Adoption Mystery: Solved
I recently read an article that I just had to share! Julia Park Tracey’s two-times great grandfather, William Lozier, was adopted. She wanted to trace his family history. Her only clue was the receipt for a train fare from New York’s Home for the Friendless to Oberlin, Ohio that William had. The ticket cost $7.50 and was dated 1856.
With a little bit of easy math, Julia realized that William would have been a three-year old at the time. Can you imagine? Julia was intrigued by the finding, but didn’t think much more about it until she read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. This piqued her curiosity about Williams’s story and she started researching. What she found was an astonishing story of family struggling to stay together during the hardships of 19th century life.
Along her research journey, Julia learned that William’s mother was widowed in upstate New York in 1848. Consequently, the woman lost the family farm and needed to give up her two oldest boys to an orphanage. She managed to hold on to her oldest daughter and baby William while she worked as a seamstress. Sadly, she still couldn’t make ends meet and ended up placing her last two children in an orphanage as well.
Julia explains in the article: “Martha was undaunted; she worked and saved, and eventually wrote to ask for her children back. The orphanage did not respond. In those days, a child’s moral and spiritual welfare were tantamount, and a single mother was seen as not fit to parent. Nevertheless, she found her way to her daughter, and at least one of her middle sons, if not both. Martha lived the rest of her life with her married daughter and her grandchildren. She died between 1900 and 1910, [but] she never saw nor heard of what had happened to Will.”
With these new pieces of information, Julia was able to trace the line back through time and generations. She even learned a little more about her unexpected DNA results! I am sure it was very satisfying to finally piece together the story of the old train ticket and William’s family story. Even the smallest clues like the old train ticket can lead to long-forgotten stories that add to our family history tapestry. Genealogy is all about persistence, and much like a detective, the smallest piece of evidence can make all the difference!
More on Genealogy for Adoptees
If you’ve been a Premium member for a while, you’ll recall Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. It was one of our first Genealogy Gems Book Club selections—and based on feedback from you, it’s been one of our most popular choices. If you haven’t listened to Premium episode 121 which includes our interview with Christina, I encourage you to go back and listen. In that conversation, you’ll learn about the history of the orphan train riders in the U.S. and Canada and how the author researched it.
Learn more about the Orphan Train and it’s riders in this post: “Road Trip Anyone? An Orphan Train Museum.”
See what else we’ve read by clicking: Genealogy Gems Book Club
Great story! I am currently helping my adopted cousin search for his birth parents. Last week I was sucessful in finding his mother after using my genealogy know how and the power of census and death records. Now I am in search of his birth father.
I have one question re the article above. Perhaps I am misreading something, The train ticket is dated 1856 and William is 3 years old. Therefore born about 1852-3. Yet his mother was widowed in 1848. William would not yet have been born. What am I missing???
Hi Alice! Good catch!! I hadn’t noticed that. I am unsure, but according to the article that we referenced (from Woman’s Day Magazine), it seems as if the mother’s husband, and father of the two oldest children, died in 1848. It doesn’t say one way or the other if William had the same father, so I am guessing he must not have!