INFORMATION ABOUT POORHOUSE
INMATE REGISTRATION CERTIFICATES

Note: This comment posted 5/18/2000


In or about the mid-1870s many states created their own State Board of Charities. These became a kind of semi-governmental agency to deal with matters concerning the poor. In New York State in 1875 they began requiring some standardized record- keeping in poorhouses. Copies of the completed certificates were sent monthly  to the Board of Charities. In New York State, they were stored at the Archives and subsequently microfilmed. This is a huge treasure trove of information about which many genealogical researchers are not yet aware! 
(We hope to spread the word!)

While I am not yet certain, I believe that other states may have adopted the same kind of record-keeping by the same kind of board at about the same time …or perhaps a little later. I am currently researching that and will report back later.

Click here if you wish to see a copy of an actual blank  Certificate with further information.
(NOTE: This graphic takes a bit to load, thank you for being patient.)

[As is explained below, those certificates were filmed in chronological order according to certificate number – and no name index is yet available. That is why volunteering to at least index the certificates would be a great service.]

I became so fascinated with these certificates that I (extensively!) abstracted all of them for Washington County NY from 1875-1900. They have a wealth of information on each form. I believe they contain information which could be of great value to both local historians and genealogists.

PLEASE READ BELOW VERY COMPLETELY. (It may sound as though a  commercial advertisement for my own book is going to follow; but it’s not. The point is to explain a research process which I used -- some of you may want to follow some of the steps in that process on your own. Your sharing of the information you may choose to transcribe or index or abstract with this and other sites on the internet or out in the real world would be very helpful to many.)


I, personally, abstracted so much information from each certificate that the result was way too much data to publish on-line; so I decided to self-publish a print book (for sale commercially). [It took a lot of time and expense to carry out the project, and I hope to recover at least some of the expense through sale of the book to libraries, etc.]

But I  have published on-line a complete index of those certificates (for WASHINGTON County only): giving the inmate name and the certificate number for that inmate and the first date of admission to the poorhouse which is recorded on the certificate . NOTE: Anyone who finds on that on-line index the name of person who is a likely relative …. (this is IMPORTANT folks!) … can pursue the matter further without needing to buy my book in order to do so! Here’s how:

Almost all of those certificates – from almost every county in New York – from 1875 through the early 1900s -- are available on microfilm from the New York State Archives. (And the microfilm rolls can be ordered through Inter-Library Loan.) So….they can just order the film and search for themselves to find the photocopy of the certificate and read the entire contents. They can then take the film to a library near them which has a film-viewer which allows them to make a paper copy. (Or they can call a library and ask the library to look up the abstract in my book – which I hope a few of them will purchase! Then, hopefully, the library can read them the abstracted information which can help them decide if it is worth trying to get a copy of the original Inmate Registration Certificate.)

This is designed to be a Win/Win situation which allows maximum free access to the records…at the same time that it offers me an opportunity to sell a few books to folks who would like to get the overall historical picture which my book offers.

(It’s kind of like the situation where you can either get merely a photo of your ancestor’s tombstone … or….visit and see the layout of the cemetery for yourself so you can get more context clues such as who else was buried nearby, etc. That’s because in my book, Portraits of Poverty, the presentation is in chronological order with an index which cross-references to the name. That way you can see who else was admitted at about the same time and get fascinating clues about “what was going on” in that time period – bad weather, epidemics, war, etc.)


Click here to find a LIST OF THE MICROFILM ROLLS of the Certificates of Inmate Registration for New York. These are listed by county and enable you to find exactly which rolls are needed to cover a complete NYS county.

Any index posted on The Poorhouse Story will need to contain at least the following: name, certificate number, and the first date of admission. (More than that would probably be too much data to post.)

Of course, volunteers would be free to abstract much more information if they so desired. As with all transcribing for The Poorhouse Story, we will share the information which you give us permission to post on our site with others. You are free to do as you wish with any additional information you may abstract.

Thanks for considering volunteering to participate in this project!

Linda M. Crannell
(aka = The Poorhouse Lady)


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