Orphan Train

Posted by: adminin Genealogy News

I just read this story on CNN and wonder if anyone here has heard of this gentleman:
It tells the story of Stanley & Victor Cornell, sons of Floyd & Lottie Cornell of Elmira, Chemung county, who became orphans after their mother died and their father was unable to care for them. They rode the “Orphan Train” across the country. I heard all about the “Orphan Train” in a genealogy conference a while back. Orphaned children were placed on these trains that left from the east coast in the 1850’s to the 1920’s and shuttled west. The children were adopted along the way.

E. Ferris Banner married Gladys Florence Cornell, daughter of Vernor Cornell & Florence Brainard. I have the residences of Vernor & Florence in Schoharie county in the 1910-30’s. That’s a ways from Chemung and I have no Floyd Cornell in my database but people do travel.

Anyway, I found the article interesting. I know when I first heard of the orphan trains, I thought of my father. He discovered late in life that he had been adopted when he read a letter written during the last world war by a sister he never knew he had. I pondered whether he might have ridden one of those “orphan trains”. I have since learned enough to know that that wasn’t the case which was probably a good thing. I can’t even imagine trying to hunt down the ancestry of a train orphan.

The Trains have an interesting website:


This entry was posted on Friday, November 25th, 2011 at 4:21 pm and is filed under Genealogy News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 comments so far

1.  Alison Moore
December 3rd, 2011 at 2:28 am

Phil Lancaster and I have been doing a multi-media program on the Orphan Trains for the last 14 years. We were originally the outreach program for the Orphan Train Heritage Society in Springdale, AR that later became the Orphan Train National Complex in Concordia, KS, whose website you listed. We met the relatives of the Cornell brothers in Shamrock, TX. Both boys were taken by the Darger family in Wellington, TX. Stanley now lives in a senior facility in Pueblo, CO.

2.  admin
December 4th, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Thanks so much for the update. I had never heard of the Orphan Train till I read that article. You perform a great service by shedding a light on this episode in American history.

3.  Julie Jaco
August 1st, 2013 at 7:51 am

Holy cow, I have never heard of this. That is sad, I will have to find some books on the subject. I am interested to find out if there were any happy endings to this part in our countries history.

4.  Pat Buck
April 3rd, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Found this so interesting, I am from the Spencer’s of Tioga Co., PA, which is where Stanley’s mother was born. I have a picture of her headstone from Wellsboro, PA.

5.  admin
April 4th, 2016 at 3:46 pm

I agree that it very interesting, even though I’ve read it several times over.
Oddly enough, I’ve been doing some research on another family from Tioga Co., PA. Small world.

6.  Dane Cornell
September 28th, 2016 at 5:26 pm

Hi guys, I am Dane Cornell, Stanley’s grandson. Just want to make a clarification. My grandfather was not living in a nursing home in 2011. He was living with his wife, my grandmother, Earleen Cornell until May of this year. He became ill and was hospitalised and placed in a senior care facility at that time. Unfortunately he passed away September 22, 2016 at the grand old age of 96!

If you all have any questions please feel free to ask, I have plenty of stories as well as a book my grandmother authored.

Thank you,


7.  Karen Cuccinello
December 24th, 2016 at 7:19 am

Hi Dane- I am currently compiling a book on The Schoharie County Poorhouse and it’s Inhabitants (and if they were in other institutions or situations) so this story caught my eye. Were your relations in Schoharie County? If so would like to add their story. Thanks

8.  admin
December 24th, 2016 at 11:13 am

Hi Karen,
I’m the administrator of the Banner Blog and thought you might benefit more from contacting Dane Cornell directly. His email address is: dane.cornell@gmail.com
The Orphan Train is by far the most commented upon article on the blog. I found it to be a very interesting tidbit about an almost forgotten part of NY history. I’m glad you are keeping it alive.
Nancy Porter


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