General Collection Information
This collection contains records for individuals admitted to Almshouses between 1758 and 1952 in New York City. The term “almshouse” is used to broadly define institutions that provided aid to the poor and sick. Almshouses included workhouses, soldiers’ barracks, hospitals, penitentiaries, and asylums. The ledgers contained in this collection detail admissions, (voluntary or otherwise), discharges, deaths, and census information for the various types of almshouse.
Using this Collection
The registry may include the following information:
During the era of the almshouse, many immigrants arrived in New York. Those fleeing famine and persecution often had few resources available and may have found their way to an almshouse. When searching for immigrant ancestors, keep in mind that many immigrants changed their names when they became citizens. Searching for both names or alternate spellings can improve your chances of finding your ancestor. Also keep in mind that there are likely other people with the same name as your ancestor, so cross-checking your ancestor’s records can help you be sure you’ve found the right person.
As this collection only contains an index of almshouse occupants, it may be helpful to search Ancestry’s catalogue of New York records for additional information: href="https://www.ancestry.com/cs/newyork"target="_blank">https://www.ancestry.com/cs/newyork
Collection in Context
The first almshouse (simply known as “Almshouse”) opened in 1736. Similar to workhouses and poorhouses in England, the goal of Almshouse was to house the destitute in exchange for labor, if the tenants were able. The second almshouse, Bridewell, opened in 1795. As the city grew, so did the needs of its citizens, and more almshouses were created.
Initially spread throughout the city, all almshouses were relocated to Blackwell’s Island by 1845. Most almshouses were overcrowded, crime-riddled, underfunded, and rampant with disease. Throughout the era of the almshouse, many departments oversaw the almshouse system and made attempts at reform. Almshouses faded into obscurity as residential development began on Blackwell’s Island, now known as Roosevelt Island.
National Archives. “Almshouse Ledgers.” Last Modified 2020. https://www.archives.nyc/almshouse
Belkin, Nathalie. “Guide to the Almshouse Ledgers, 1758-1952.” New York City Municipal Archives. Last Modified 2016. https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/records/pdf/Almshouse_REC0008_MASTER.pdf