Orphans and Waifs in Early Madison County

Orphans in the 19th century were not de­fined the same as today. The term “orphan,” now recognized as someone without parents, in those days also included waifs, that is, home­less, neglected or abandoned children.  Throughout this article “orphan” will refer to both waifs and orphans who are simply chil­dren with no adult to care for them. An “orphan” might actually have one, or perhaps two, surviv­ing par­ents, but those parents abandoned them because they were physi­cally or financially una­ble to provide for them.