Growing up in the small town of Ellis, Kansas, I knew my grandmother was adopted, but no real information was ever forthcoming. There was always a mystery about such things, and it was not to be talked about. We were not allowed to ask many questions, and when we did, we were met with icy stares or told to "mind your own business". I always thought finding out about my grandmother was my business, but apparently others didn't agree. It wasn't long until I learned to "let sleeping dogs lie".
By the time I was in High School we were asked to do a family tree. I knew my tree stopped with my grandmother because I knew nothing of her heritage. Again, I was not really allowed to ask. I had heard some stories by this time that maybe Grandma was an illegitimate child of someone in the family or a close friend. Or, perhaps, there was some other type of "scandal" involved. I never really knew but the curiosity to find out never left me.
It wasn't until my grandmother died in 1982 that I really began to think about the importance of finding out who she was and where she came from. By then I had children of my own and felt this was an important part of their history. I began to ask more questions and found out that Grandma came from New York, but I had no idea what the "Orphan Trains" were really about. My aunt, Agnes, (Grandma's first child) invited me to the first Kansas Orphan Train Reunion, which was held in Salina, and I have been motivated to step up the search ever since.
My real search began with a letter to The New York Foundling Hospital. I didn't have much to go on but was lucky because my grandmother rode The Train in 1910. By that time records were being kept and information was being sent along with the child. I also know that a family could sort of "order" a child to adopt. The answer to my first letter to The Foundling Hospital told me I needed to send identification of myself, identification of the former client (my grandmother) and prove my relationship to my grandmother. I wrote to the Vital Statistics Bureau in Topeka for copies of Grandma's death certificate and marriage certificate. I already had copies of my own birth certificate and birth record of my father (who was grandma's second child). The letter from The Foundling was a little intimidating because it also required the exact date of birth and my reply with identification must be received within one month! The people at Vital Statistics were very helpful and I was able to get my request sent in time. After 5 months with no reply from The Foundling, I wrote again. Again, I sent all the information required and copies of all my correspondence with them. Within 2 weeks I received a detailed letter from The Foundling, and a packet of information pertaining to my grandmother. No words can adequately describe my feelings when I read the letter. My grandmother's story is as follows:
Grandma's birth name was not Patricia Haller, as I had been told, but Patricia Hollo. She was born on March 17, 1908, in St. Ann's Hospital in New York City. This hospital closed in 1942. Patricia's mother's name was Anna Hollo. Anna was born in Hungary, came to the United States, and was 22 years old when Patricia was born. Patricia's father was Andrew Pitro, also born in Hungary, and was 25 years old when Patricia was born. Andrew was a factory hand. Anna and Andrew were not married.
Anna Hollo placed her daughter (my grandmother) in The New York Foundling Hospital on the day of her birth. St. Ann's was affiliated with The Foundling at that time. Anna felt that since she was not married, she had no way to care for the child. After Anna left the hospital there was no further contact, so Anna's story is not complete. There was also no information about Andrew Pitro after this.
Patricia was cared for at The Foundling until May 14, 1910, when she was sent by train to Ellis, Kansas. It was Joseph and Rosalia Kozlowski who had applied to The Foundling to adopt a child. The Kozlowski's had requested a boy of 5 years, with a German or Austrian background. They received, instead, my grandmother, a girl of 2 years! The Kozlowskis were delighted with Patricia and wrote several letters requesting papers to adopt her. I have no information regarding the adoption, if in fact an adoption ever took place. In all letters from the Kozlowskis, they express their desire "to make the child their own". I cannot find out if my grandmother was adopted by the Kozlowskis because I have been told that, in Kansas, all adoption records are sealed. I would need to hire a lawyer and obtain a court order just to see if there was an adoption or not!
So far, this is all I know about my grandmother and her birth parents. I found my grandmother's name in a 1910 New York Census, however, it lists her name as Patricia Jollo rather than Hollo as is on her certificate of birth. I'm not sure if someone didn't know the correct pronunciation or spelling of her mother's last name and recorded it incorrectly. I can imagine that when people came to America, maybe they didn't speak English very well, and things didn't get translated in the best way. So maybe my grandmother's name was Patricia Jollo, but I am going to assume it was Patricia Hollo.
Wanda Peters (Vice-Chairperson, Kansas Orphan Train Reunion Group) continues to research her grandmother's history and welcomes any help or information regarding her grandmother or the 1910 train that brought Patricia to Ellis, Kansas. If you have information for Wanda, please contact Connie DiPasquale.