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Elizabeth and Catherine Kelley, Jefferson County

Family lore has it that Elizabeth (1851 - 1934) and Katherine Kelley (1848 - 1925) travelled on the orphan train to Illinois. I was contacted by a descendant with questions about how to trace an OTR back to New York. The best way, if you cannot find the OTR in a New York census as a resident of an asylum or orphanage, is to contact the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia, Kansas. I was able to determine that the Kelleys did not ride the train with the New York Juvenile Asylum, by referring to a book entitled "Names of Children in the New York Juvenile Asylum." This book is a list of each child who entered the NYJA -- but only about 20 percent of these children were sent West. Many of the children who entered asylums were returned to their families or sent to farms in New York or other nearby states. Indentured children in the West may have come with a different organization or may have been indentured out by a charity in one of the western states. For example, Illinois shipped children to other states in the early twentieth century.

The family story is this: Eliza Elizabeth Kelley, her sister Katherine (Kit) and a brother Joseph, were passengers on one of the orphan trains. Their parents were born in Ireland and after their father died, their mother remarried. They were put on the train in N.Y. by their stepfather. Brother Joseph was taken from the train some where around Chicago, and the two girls got off the train in Jefferson Co. They were never able to find their brother. Eliza Elizabeth married Robert Taylor Wright of Baldhill Township, Jefferson Co. Katherine (Kit) (1848 - 1925) married Littleton Johnson. Both sisters married farmers, which would not be unusual, because the majority of men in Illinois in the mid 1800s were farmers. Both sisters lived in Bald Hill Township the remainder of their lives and were buried in Bald Hill Cemetery. Neither woman appeared in the census until after their marriages.

Elizabeth had eight children Albert, William, Minnie, Cora, Herbert O, Grace E, Robert E, and Nellie M.

Katherine had three children: Dora, Joseph, and Alva.

If it could be determined which organization sent these three children, there might be more information about their mother and her new married name or the location of their brother.

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