Eloise Thomsen, 1917-2014 [RG5218.AM]


RG5218.AM: Eloise Thomsen, 1917-2014

Omaha, Douglas County, Neb.: Writer
Size: 2.5 cu.ft.; 5 boxes


Eloise Thomsen had a special love for children which may have been what led her to get involved with the children of the Orphan Trains. She had no direct tie to any of the Orphan Train children and not to any of their descendants. For the next 25 years she collected as much information as she could on who they were and what happened to them. When she started out in 1977, she wanted to collect information on all children sent west but eventually concentrated on just the children left in Nebraska. She tracked down names, places of arrival and stories concerning the Orphan Train children. She spoke to large and small gatherings over these years about the riders and their contributions to our society. She wanted the information she had gathered to be placed in the archives of the Nebraska State Historical Society and made available to patrons looking for Orphan Train relatives and others seeking information.

Eloise married Armand Zahle Thomsen and had three children. Eloise pursued her own genealogy and belonged to the Danish Sisterhood, the Danish American Club and Scandinavian Folk Dancers. She was as creative as she was hard-working. She quilted and loved to recite poetry and was a mentor to would-be poets. When given a piano by her husband, she taught herself to play. Eloise played and entertained nearly to the end of her life.


This collection consists of information and materials that Eloise Thomsen and others collected related to some of the approximately 4,000 children who got off the Orphan Trains in Nebraska from the 1870s until the late 1920s. Because of the economic struggles of the time many children in New York City were left to fend for themselves or surrendered to orphanages because their parent(s) simply could not provide for the family. Two main organizations, The Children’s Aid Society and the New York Foundling Hospital, were instrumental in sending these children out west to find new homes.

The collection includes Thomsen’s correspondence setting up speaking engagements; newsletters from other Orphan Train related groups and Orphan Train reunions and her own writings. It also includes alphabetical files of letters Thomsen received on and by Orphan Train Riders. There are smaller files on Orphan Trains that seem to have originated from places other than New York, a possible Titanic connection, the newsboys of New York, literature from a man who was very much against the whole idea of Orphan Trains, and school projects that she was asked to provide information for.

This collection includes Thomsen’s original notes, numbering systems, informational cards in the original box, clippings and mementos from Orphan Train reunions that have been held, and a file of general Orphan Train information. Thomsen’s general file on adoptions in general is also included in this collection.

Although not a part of the original Thomsen collection, correspondence between Annette Fry who was writing an article on the trains for American Heritage magazine and Nebraska State Historical Society staff is included in the collection. The same is true of correspondence of Val Kuska, Agricultural Development Agent for Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad and Nebraska State Historical staff concerning the Orphan Trains in Nebraska.

Box 1 of the collection contains Thomsen’s original orphan register files. The files are organized numerically by the number she assigned to orphan train riders as she found them. Indexes to the register files are included in the last folder of box 1. The second box contains other orphan train rider files organized alphabetically by name as well as general orphan train information. Box 3 contains more general orphan train information. Box 4 consists of index card notes compiled by Eloise Thomsen. Box 5 contains personal papers and correspondence of Eloise Thomsen (not relating to Orphan Trains).


Box 1 – Orphan Train Register

  1. Orphan register, 1-209
  2. Orphan register, 210-406
  3. Orphan register, 407-490
  4. Orphan register, 491-585
  5. Orphan register, 586-674
  6. Orphan register indexes

Box 2 – Orphan Train riders

  1. A
  2. B, pt. 1
  3. B, pt. 2
  4. B, pt. 3
  5. B, pt. 4
  6. C, pt. 1
  7. C, pt. 2
  8. Castner
  9. D, pt. 1
  10. D, pt. 2
  11. E
  12. F
  13. G
  14. H, pt. 1
  15. H, pt. 2
  16. H, pt. 3
  17. I
  18. J
  19. K, pt. 1
  20. K, pt. 2
  21. L
  22. M, pt. 1
  23. M, pt. 2
  24. N
  25. O
  26. P
  27. Q
  28. R
  29. S, pt. 1
  30. S, pt. 2
  31. T
  32. U-V
  33. W, pt. 1
  34. W, pt. 2
  35. X-Z
  36. General Orphan Train information
  37. Children’s Aid Society
  38. Children’s Aid Society Annual Reports
  39. New York Foundling Hospital
  40. Orphan Train Agents
  41. Orphan Trains Other than New York
  42. Orphan Train Organizations
  43. Orphan Train Publications
  44. General Requests for Information
  45. General Adoption Information, not Orphan Train
  46. Thomsen Appeals
  47. Thomsen Program Correspondence
  48. Thomsen Correspondence 1981-1989
  49. Thomsen Writings
  50. Orphan Train Reunions
  51. School Projects
  52. Correspondence – Orphan Train Project
  53. Correspondence – from Riders
  54. Correspondence — Annette Fry, American Heritage
  55. Correspondence — Miscellaneous

Box 3

  1. Correspondence – Val Kuska, Burlington
  2. Miscellaneous Notes – Orphan Train children
  3. Miscellaneous Notes – Orphan Train children
  4. Miscellaneous Notes – Orphan Train children
  5. Miscellaneous Notes – Orphan Train children
  6. Miscellaneous Notes – Orphan Train children
  7. Eugene Austin material
  8. Newsboys of New York
  9. Titanic Connection
  10. Sources of Information
  11. Orphan Train movie
  12. Kansas
  13. Minnesota
  14. Iowa
  15. Missouri
  16. Misc. orphan train notes, articles, etc.

Box 4 – Index card notes by Eloise Thomsen

Box 5 – Eloise Thomsen personal papers (non-Orphan Train)

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