letter was sent to the managers of an orphanage by a member of the
U.S. Navy in 1913. The young man had been searching for his parents
for years without success. In the early decades of the century,
professionals who worked for institutions and agencies frequently
acted as agents of disclosure and helped teenagers and adults locate
long-lost relatives. During this period, sloppy or non-existent
records were much greater obstacles to search
and reunion than policies of confidentiality
and sealed records. In this case, the superintendent scoured
the orphanage records and went to see the letter-writer in person,
but no clues about this young man’s background could ever
be found. Child welfare advocates in the U.S.
Children’s Bureau and the Child
Welfare League of America insisted on minimum
standards, including improved record-keeping practices, so that
children placed away from their families—whether temporarily
or permanently—could be given the answers they wanted.
Will i asked you to do me a great favor i have not asked since
i left the home 10 or 11 years ago because I did not fell it like
i do when traveling around the world. Will you please look in the
old records and see if you can trace up my father and mother. i
don’t know or have never remember seeing since leaving the
dear old homestead i hope to visit probley this summer in my Uniform.
My father name i think is Richard _____ and mother Susan _____ i
doing well i join to see the world and save some money so i could
see some part of the world if i knew where my mother was i would
not Join the navy. Some time i get a thinking about the _____ Orphan
Asylum & mother & i sit down & hold my face & cry.
As i grow up in manhood with no one to love but God i feel like
a lost sheep. Im 23 years old now & Nov 7, 1916 i will be 27
years old. Miss _____, Directress, will you please investigate &
find out something. Some yrs ago Mr. _____ said he thought they
were up in New York State in the poor house. i been searching for
the last 6 yrs. I doing find & i have not had a sick day since
i left the grand old home.