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George Sim Johnston Archives

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In 1992, following the death of George Sim Johnston, a highly respected and longstanding member of The NYSPCC’s Board of Directors, his family and friends generously provided funding to establish the Archives that bear his name and honor his memory. The George Sim Johnston Archives serve as one of the nation’s most valuable repositories of original and compiled material on the origins, history, and development of the child protection movement.

Archival holdings include digital copies of case files from The NYSPCC’s incorporation in 1875 to the present, including more than half a million

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files concerning as many as two million children. The archives serve as an invaluable resource for academic research and for private individuals seeking information on their family origins. In 2001, The NYSPCC was awarded a Documentary Heritage Grant from the New York State Archives and Records Administration to examine ways to preserve the existing collection and through new technological innovations, make its holdings more readily accessible to the public.

To receive more information on the George Sim Johnston Archives and The NYSPCC’s genealogical search services, please click HERE.

Family History Searches

From 1875 to 1950, nearly all reports of alleged child abuse, neglect, or abandonment in New York City were made to The NYSPCC. Individuals researching their family genealogy may request information on individual case files from this period. Two levels of searches are offered:

1. Family Search – $100 Flat Fee
Provides a thorough search of The NYSPCC records and the identification of all relevant case files. A “Report of Basic Findings” is provided which summarizes the number of case records found, names and vital information of household members, and a brief statement regarding the nature of the case(s). If a substantial amount of material is discovered, an estimate is provided regarding the number of hours required to produce a “Comprehensive Family Report”.

2. Comprehensive Family Report – $50 per additional hour
Individuals seeking a more thorough examination of materials may request a “Comprehensive Family Report”. This will include a detailed review and analysis of all relevant information contained in each record, noting or resolving discrepancies in vital information, and to the extent applicable, explaining procedures and identifying resources for further research.

Click Here to Purchase a Search of the Archives

Whose Records May be on File?

• Residents of Manhattan and Marble Hill 1875-1950
• Bronx residents west of the Bronx River 1875-1916
• Non-resident children whose cases were reported in the above areas

Who May Request and Obtain Information?

• Persons who as children were the subjects of reports
• Relatives and descendants of such persons
• Legal representatives of such persons or their estates
• Professionals engaged by any of the preceding individuals

To request a “Family Search”, complete the following application form and choose a payment option.

The NYSPCC’s Archival Research

The George Sim Johnston Archives serve as one of the nation’s most valuable repositories of original and compiled material on the origins, history and development of the child protection movement. Archival holdings, in digital and hard copy, include the following:

• The NYSPCC’s Annual Reports: 1875-Present
• Child Performer (Newspaper) Clipping Books: 18 volumes, 1880-1911
• Children’s Court Clipping Book: 1901-1904
• Convention Minutes of SPCCs in New York State: 4 volumes, 14 annual conventions, 1890-1904
• Court Decision Clipping Books: 3 volumes, 1890-1919
• Historical Records: approximately 15 linear feet of documents in file folders dating from 1875
• Manuals for NYSPCC Officers: 10 manuals spanning the years from 1875-2004
• Selected Cases: 11 volumes concerning eight NYSPCC interventions, 1881-1912
• The Mary Ellen Case, 1874 and Etta Wheeler correspondence, 1875-1936: 2 volumes
• Visitor’s Books: Registries of visitors to The NYSPCC’s headquarters, 1877-1898; 1917-1937, 2 Volumes
• Minutes Books of the NYSPCC: 19 volumes, 1874-Present

Additionally, there is a collection of photographs (some in print, some on glass slides), including several NYSPCC buildings, and persons of historical importance to The NYSPCC such as Etta Wheeler, Elbridge T. Gerry, Henry Bergh, as well as Mary Ellen, before and after her rescue, and later, with her children.

Archival ephemera include the dress worn by Mary Ellen at the time of her rescue, professionally mounted in a museum display case, the badges or shields worn by the NYSPCC president, directors and special officers, and the original cast iron seal of the Society.

The George Sim Johnston Archives have served as an invaluable resource for published works concerning the origins and history of child protection, the movement to regulate child performers, and for various local museum exhibitions.


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