Update from our Archivist
Earlier this month we shared the first set of Petition Letters on Zooniverse.
The interest in these has been phenomenal!
As well as transcribing the documents at a very fast rate, the findings that you have been sharing have been fascinating. You’ve also been connecting different documents together to reveal fuller pictures of the people involved and have already added huge amounts of knowledge to the story of the those whose lives were touched by the Foundling Hospital.
What are the petition letters?
From 1763 – 1801 mothers had to “petition” by writing a letter to the Governors to state why their child should be taken into the Foundling Hospital. They usually presented their case by giving reasons why they could not care for their child.
Other information that we are seeing in these letters includes the name of the mother, along with her age and marital status. The date of the child’s birth and some information about the father, if known. Whilst the majority were written by, or on behalf of the mothers, there are some that were written by other family members, friends, neighbours or employers. The letters often contain heart-breaking detail as the petitioners explain their situations and why they cannot look after the child themselves.
In this first series of Petition Letters that we are sharing, there are twenty-five volumes and they cover the period 1768-1800. These contain Petition Letters that were administered as part of a ballot system.
Some petitions were successful and gained admittance for a child to the Foundling Hospital, others were unsuccessful and the Foundling Hospital was unable to take the child in to their care.
To find out more about the ballot system and changes to the admissions process at the Foundling Hospital over the years, see our article here
Real stories of mothers #realstoriesofcare
See the ‘Stories from the Talk message board’ section below for the details of some of our recent volunteer findings.
Beyond this initial set of twenty five volumes of Petition Letters, there will be more still to transcribe. I hope you can join us to help uncover even more #realstoriesofcare and contribute to the story of the care system in the UK.
Jo Blyghton, Voices Through Time Project Archivist