Thanks to Family Detective researcher, Kassie Foran, for this blog post:
I stumbled upon a foundling one day in my research and it sparked an interest – in all our research, we rely on facts and accurate recordings to trace through family history, however in the case of a foundling, the family story typically starts with that one individual. Not only does the baptism record lack the usual information which we rely on for conducting our research – name of mother and father, profession, date of birth, place of birth, but in the case of foundlings, their very name is made up too.
I started saving the baptism records of foundlings – finding it both interesting, and incredibly sad that the baby was usually given the surname after the place they were found. Have a look at the records in the images above – you can see the exact details as to how they got their names.
Babies were typically abandoned due to illegitimacy or inability of the parents to care for the child. The welfare of the children was often administered by charitable organisations, most notably, the Foundling Hospital in London.
Back in the 18th and 19th century if a mother was led to abandon her child, she would often leave them with a scrap of fabric, keeping another scrap herself, thus proving their relationship to one another if they were ever reunited. In 2010 the Daily Telegraph ran a heart-breaking piece about the babies left at the Foundling Hospital, and the stories behind the scraps of fabric.
Whilst in the west today, children are abandoned much less frequently, we still continue to hear stories of adults who were abandoned as children now looking for their parents. On the Family Detective facebook page we recently shared details of Steve, dubbed ‘Gary Gatwick’ who was abandoned in Gatwick Airport in 1986. He is utilising social media to help his hunt to find his family.
Although it’s incredibly sad that foundlings begin their lives with no known relatives, it’s heart-warming to know that they were rescued, looked after, and given a chance at life – and that’s a good thing.