Discover vital details about your ancestor in these records from Bethany Children’s Home in Pennsylvania. You may discover why your ancestor was admitted and details about your ancestor’s parents and life after discharge. You may be able to learn the names of your ancestor’s next of kin or adoptive parents.
This collection includes three publications from Bethany Children’s Home in Pennsylvania:
Book of Life index
Book of Children Volume 1 index
Book of Children Volume 2 index
Both transcripts and images of the original index are included for each result. The amount of available information varies from entry to entry depending on which publication you are looking in and what information was originally provided, but most records will include the following details:
Discharge date (which may include a note as to how the child was discharged, e.g. to parents, died; depending on which publication you are looking at, you may need to consult the image to see this information. Images may also include additional details such as next of kin and adoptive parents.)
Residence (where the child lived before admittance to Bethany Children’s Home)
Some names will appear twice in results: one entry will be to an index image denoting which page the child’s entry is to be found on and the other will be the actual admission entry. Be sure to view the admission entry to see all the available information about your ancestor.
The images can provide you with vital additional information and context for understanding why your ancestor was placed in the home, including parents’ names and new guardian information. The images for the Book of Children indexes, for example, include fields about which parent died, when the parent died, and the denomination of the parent. Additionally, there are notes about the health and next of kin of the child, as well as information on whether the child was baptised and confirmed. Some entries will also include detailed notes about a child’s disposition and time at the home. One such entry described a boy as being nice, quiet, and well behaved.
Discharge notes can provide you with a wealth of information and direction on where to look for your ancestor next. The notes may include death dates (and cause of death), a relocation address or place, next of kin or new guardian information, or the names of the individuals who adopted your ancestor.
This collection can help you trace your displaced ancestor who may have ended up in a children’s home due to parents’ deaths or their inability to care for the child. By providing you with key details, such as parents’ names and where the child came from prior to admittance, you may be able to trace your orphaned ancestor’s family line back another generation. With notes provided as to the cause and means of a child’s discharge from the home, you can piece together where your ancestor went next and why, including adoption information.
Bethany Children’s Home had its humble beginnings in the founder’s family home in 1863. Concerned with the fate of children orphaned or half-orphaned by their fathers’ deaths in the Civil War, Reverend Emanuel Boehringer determined to open an orphanage for the protection of such children. Eager to start this work, Boehringer opened his own home to their first orphan, Caroline Engle in 1863, before his church, the German Reformed Church, could respond to his request to support such an enterprise.
Very quickly the enterprise outgrew Boehringer’s home as more and more children were admitted. The home moved to Womelsdorf, a borough in Berks County, in 1867. The property was purchased for $33,000 and included a house and 26 acres 65 perches of land.
In its early days, the home was called The Orphans Home of the Shepherd of the Lamb. However, this proved to be quite the mouthful and was changed to Bethany Orphans’ Home—Bethany refers to the home of Martha and Mary in the Bible, a place “Jesus loved to be.” The final name change occurred in 1985 when it was determined that the number of orphans at the home was only a small percentage of the total number of children at the home. Thus, the name of the home became Bethany Children’s Home.
Names will often appear twice in results: one entry will be to an index image denoting which page the child’s entry is to be found on and the other will be the actual admission entry. Be sure to view the admission entry to see all the available information about your ancestor.
If you are including a year in your search parameters and are unable to find your ancestor, keep in mind that the years may have been mistranscribed. Instead, try searching without a year or with a wide year range.
Some ledgers cover two pages; to ensure you see all the information pertaining to your ancestor, use the arrow on the right side of the image to view the right-hand side of the ledger.