Joyce and Alfred Smith, of Plantersville, show an article on the orphan trains that his mother rode on in 1905. After 47 years of searching, Alfred Smith has found a biological cousin living in Connecticut and plans to visit later this month
After 47 years, an 83-year-old Plantersville man has found his mother’s biological family, living in Connecticut, with the help of his granddaughter and wife.
Alfred and Joyce Smith have been searching for his mother’s family since she passed away in 1966. His mother, Anna Elizabeth Taylor, who was born Feb. 8, 1902, was given to an orphanage in New York, N.Y. by her mother.
The couple watched a television show years ago about the orphan trains and obtained the address of the orphanage in New York.
His mother was one of 250,000 children placed in homes in rural areas as part of the Orphan Train exodus from New York City in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Anna was 3 years old when she was a passenger on one of those trains.
“(The baby’s) mother did not come or inquire for her since her admission here. There must have been circumstances which made it impossible to care for her little one herself,” a letter from the orphanage dated May 24, 1966, stated.
Anna was placed in the foster home of Mr. and Mrs. Anton Urbanski, of Plantersville, in 1905.
Alfred and Joyce Smith, of Plantersville, look over the many documents and photos collected over the years in trying to find Alfred’s mother’s biological family. His mother was one of the 250,000 orphans put on trains to Southeast Texas in the early 1900s and placed in homes.
“Mom always wanted to go to New York to see where she came from and often wondered if she had any living family,” Alfred Smith said.
Smith and his wife are thankful for their granddaughter’s endless efforts in searching for the family. She has located a niece of Anna Elizabeth Taylor, Alfred’s cousin, living in Stamford, Conn.
Ruth (Taylor) Schmidt’s father was Anna’s older brother. The Smith’s have contacted her and are planning a trip soon to Connecticut to meet her eight children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“Thank you so much for calling me, introducing yourself and for your letter and your parent’s wedding photo,” Schmidt wrote in a letter to the Smiths.
Schmidt was thrilled to see a resemblance between Alfred’s mother Anna and her father.
“Gosh, if only they could have known each other,” Schmidt wrote. “I regret deeply that I never quizzed my father about his background.”
Alfred and Joyce Smith learned that his biological grandfather’s name was Francis and he had an aunt named Lillian.
“Mom, not ever knowing anything about her family, named her youngest daughter, Lillian Frances,” Alfred Smith said. “She never knew her parents’ names or that she even had older siblings.
“It was shocking to find out that her father carried the name Francis and her sister carried the name of Lillian.”
Alfred Smith and his wife are excited about taking a trip later this month to visit his cousin Ruth.
“We welcome our new family,” Joyce Smith said.
For more information about the orphan trains, visitwww.orphantraindepot.org.
Reprint from The Courier
September 1, 2013