Demographics: Orphan Master

Occupation Types

A Chamber of Orphan Masters was instituted in New Amsterdam in 1655, modeled on the same in the Netherlands, where every city had its own chamber. The duty of the Orphan Master was to oversee the estates of orphaned children and the mentally and physically disabled up to the age of twenty-five in order to ensure that all was done to the benefit of the estate and the children. The Orphan Masters described the estate and appointed guardians for the children, who were in charge of seeing that they were educated and maintained, but under the direction and control of the Orphan Masters. The guardians could sell the children’s property to invest for their care and upbringing.

Adriana E. Van Zwieten, “The Orphan Chamber of New Amsterdam,” William & Mary Quarterly, 53 (1996), 2: 319-340.

Janny Venema, Beverwijck: A Dutch Village on the American Frontier, 1652-1664 (Albany, NY, SUNY, 2004), pp. 126-128.

This was a paid position, part time.  It was an appointed office, appointed by the Court of Burgomasters and Schepens, with the approval of the Director General and Council.