Children who were orphaned or abandoned and found themselves in the Workhouse were often ‘boarded out’ by the Board of Guardians, and details of what happened to them were recorded in the Board of Guardians Minute Books. Many of those who were boarded out were infants, sent to women who could nurse them. The Board paid a fee to the nurse for their care. Some of the children who were boarded out were eventually adopted, older children were put to work by their foster families, to contribute to their upkeep.
The foster or nurses’ homes were regularly inspected and the progress of the children was reported back to the Board of Guardians and recorded in the minutes of that meeting. A previously difficult source to research, the minute books for the North and South Dublin Union have been recently indexed and released online at www.findmypast.ie. These books contain a wealth of information on some of the orphaned and abandoned children of Dublin city.
Board of Guardians Minutes Books Inspectors Reports
In the minutes for a meeting of the South Dublin Union Board of Guardians dated 27th September 1905 several of the reports illustrate the various conditions in which the boarded out children were found. For example, it was reported that ‘George Burke is adopted by Anne Woodcock and serving his time at the Hotel Enniskerry as a waiter, which suits him as he will never be able for rough work’. A report was also submitted on the nurse Annie Walker who was 93 years of age and bedridden and was kept by her daughter, Annie Walker had boarded out children ‘John Stephens since he was 14 days old, Pat Hamilton since he was 1½ years, were always kept clean and sent regularly to school. Pat Hamilton is adopted and serving his time in Powerscourt Gardens’. The Guardians appear to recognise the need to equip the children with the means by which to support themselves once they had been discharged from care ‘Mary Fitzsimons is growing a strong girl and will be taught to milk cows and make butter etc., which when her time was up will be well able to earn her living’
The relieving officers noted the health and cleanliness of the children and the homes in which they were living ‘Mary A. Nolan’s home is much cleaner than formerly and she has promised to take more care of the girls clothes, some time ago he recommended that Jane Lawson be taken from her’
As well as reports on the condition of the children in care, applications from persons seeking to take in children and inspections of those households, the minute books also record the boarding out of children to specific individuals.
For anyone searching for details of what happened to an orphaned or abandoned child who may have passed through the Dublin Workhouse these minute books may hold valuable clues, including identifying the name of a child that was later adopted by the family by whom they were fostered.
The Flood Sisters in the Board of Guardians Minute Books
It may also be possible to find out what happened to the younger siblings of an ancestor who was orphaned but of age to support themselves. In 1898 three Flood sisters were admitted to the Workhouse, Mary, who was 18 years of age and her younger sisters, Lizzie, aged 10 and Bridget who was only 10 months old. According to the Admission Register the girls were orphans. Mary Flood worked as a factory hand and they lived at 48 Patrick’s Street. The Board of Guardians Minute books note their admission and the fact that Mary Flood was admitted because she was sick. Could Mary have been taking care of her two younger sisters when her illness forced them all into the workhouse?
Mary Flood was discharged from the workhouse in October 1898, but her two younger sisters were discharged ‘to nurse’ on 29th June 1898. The Board of Guardians Minute books then recorded a letter from the Relieving Officer reporting that nurse child Bridget Flood died from diarrhoea several weeks later. On the 3rd June 1903 the Minute Books reported that Lizzie Flood, who was with Mrs Murphy at Glassamuckey died on the 1st June ‘The nurse and her husband are anxious to bury the child at their own expense at St. Anne’s burial ground.’
Until now finding records of these arrangements was a daunting prospect, because it meant first locating the admission of the child into the workhouse to determine whether they had been boarded out and the date when they were dispatched. This would be followed by a manual search of the Board of Guardian Minute Books for a reference to the arrangements that were made for the child’s care. Subsequent follow up reports were virtually impossible to locate due to the sheer volume of material in the minute books.
Now that the Board of Guardians Minute Books, as well as the Admission and Discharge Registers for the North and South Dublin Union as well as Rathdown Union have been digitised by Findmypast in association with the National Archives of Ireland, finding evidence of what happened to many of the orphaned and abandoned children of Dublin city and County has become much easier.