Genealogy Find: Deaths Reported in Philadelphia Alms House

Americans have taken care of their vulnerable neighbors in different ways over the centuries.

For example, in Colonial Philadelphia there was established an “Alms House & House of Employment,” often called the Alms House for short. It was located on Spruce Street.

illustration of Philadelphia's Alms House, 1800

Credit: Independence Hall Association, Philadelphia: Birch’s View of Philadelphia in 1800

Back in Colonial and Early America, when families, the elderly, or those with needs couldn’t make it on their own, they turned to their neighbors for help. Communities responded by erecting alms houses like this one in Philadelphia.

Also called “work houses,” these public shelters—often run by local churches or groups—provided housing and food in exchange for work on various projects. People relied on these institutions for support until they were able to reestablish themselves.

Some residents could not manage to reestablish their independence, and ended up dying in the work houses—as in this list of 22 men, women and children that died at the Philadelphia Alms House in 1803.

deaths in Philadelphia's Alms House, Poulson's American Daily Advertiser newspaper article 9 September 1803

Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 9 September 1803, page 3

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Written by Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp

Thomas Jay Kemp is the Director of Genealogy Products at GenealogyBank. Tom Kemp is an internationally known librarian and archivist – he is the author of over 35 genealogy books and hundreds of articles about genealogy and family history.

He previously served as the Chair of the National Council of Library & Information Associations (Washington, DC) and as Library Director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

An active genealogist, he has been working on his own family history for 47 years. With the rapidly growing online archives at GenealogyBank – it is a great day for genealogy!

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One thought on “Genealogy Find: Deaths Reported in Philadelphia Alms House

  1. On March 29, 2012, I sent the following message to Luis.Bernadac@newspaperarchive.com requesting that GBank re-post corrupted articles in their data base. I never received a response, so I am forwarding my request to you in hopes that GBank will take action.

    I have repeatedly looked for news stories on my Grandfather George B. Wales.  Your archive shows me issues that have stories on him, including garbled text from the news items.  Yet when I go to the actual page of the newspaper, it can’t be shown because it is “missing or corrupted”.

    I would appreciate your finding these issues, which I assume you are actively endeavoring to repair or replace, and notifying me when I can get them (or forwarding them to me if that is possible).  

    Attached is a list of the items I am trying to access.  Please let me know if you will be able to provide them to me.

    If you can’t read the above or the pdf file below, following are the dates and papers in question:

    • The Waco News Tribune  November 16, 1960
    Waco News-Tribune, The – Friday, May 01, 1959, Waco, Texas

    Waco News-Tribune, The – Thursday, May 14, 1959, Waco, Texas

    Waco News-Tribune, The – Friday, December 02, 1955, Waco, Texas

    Waco News-Tribune, The – Thursday, December 08, 1955, Waco, Texas

    Belton Journal – Thursday, April 28, 1977, Belton, Texas

    Waco News-Tribune, The – Saturday, October 01, 1960, Waco, Texas

    Lockhart Post-Register – Thursday, August 04, 1966, Lockhart, Texas

    To repeatedly find so many articles unreadable has been very frustrating.  Thank you for your assistance.

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