Almshouse of Suffolk County:
A Finding Aid to the Records 1871-1953

Historic Documents Library
Office of the Suffolk County Clerk


The Almshouse records are located at the Historic Documents Library in the Office of the Suffolk County Clerk at the Suffolk County Center in Riverhead, NY.


The collection of records of the Suffolk County Almshouse includes admissions records, death and cemetery records, records of pauper Indians and financial records created by Suffolk County employees during the course of work at the Almshouse in Yaphank, NY. Many of the Almshouse records were created in response to an 1875 New York State requirement that specified the content of records that must be maintained by every poor house or almshouse in New York State. The collection includes a wealth of genealogical and sociological information about governmental and societal interactions with the disadvantaged members of the community in the late 19th century. Additional records for the Suffolk County Children's Home are not covered in this finding aid.

HISTORY of the ALMSHOUSE, Suffolk County, NY

Before 1870, each town in Suffolk County managed a poor house for the residents of the town. In 1870, Suffolk County established a county-wide poor house in one institution located in Yaphank in central Brookhaven Town.

The Suffolk County Poor House, as it was originally known, was established to care for the poor. According to the Public Works Administration publication, The End of Journey's End,(large PDF) the Poor House became a catch-all for for all types of wasted humanity. Criminals, lunatics, cripples- all were herded under the same roof with the poverty-stricken. The Poor House was the solution to a wide range of social ills. No consideration was given to either the person who was called an "inmate," or to the cause of his or her problem. The records in the collection, as well as the numbered headstones in the cemetery in Yaphank, are a reflection of the historical social attitudes. In 1929 New York State mandated that all institutions known as a "poor house" or an "almshouse" change the name. As a result, the Suffolk County Almshouse changed its name to the Suffolk County Home.

Associated with the Almshouse and the Suffolk County Home was a farm where many residents worked. The farm and the hay barn are currenty operated by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.


The records from the Suffolk County Almshouse include several rebound volumes, a map of the cemetery, a folder with a listing of the people interred in the cemetery known as Potter's Field and several volumes in poor condition. Most records cover the period from 1871-1953. References in the records cover earlier periods as well. Additional references to other information relating to the history of the Suffolk County Almshouse are also included in this electronic finding aid.

There are four series in the collection. They are the Admission Records, Death and Cemetery Records, a Register of Pauper Indians, and Financial Records.




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