The General Operation Records form the heart of this collection and pertain to the movement of children though the asylum system. Many of these records contain unique case numbers that were assigned to each child.
The Registers of Children list the age and important characteristics of new arrivals at the House of Reception, such as race, religion, language spoken, and name and address of parents. These records reveal that NYJA housed Catholic and Jewish, as well as Protestant children, and admitted African-American and immigrant youth. Most of these registers contain case numbers and information about the eventual fate of the child: if she was sent to the Asylum, home to family, or out West as an apprentice. Some unusual cases are marked with additional notes.
Social workers created Home Visit Records when they visited the families of children living in the Asylum to determine whether those families could provide a fit home for children. These visits were conducted for children living in the Asylum who had families with a known address. These ledgers do not all follow the same format. Some contain an Admission form and Discharge form on facing pages. A social worker filled out the first of these forms when a child was removed from his home. The facing, Discharge, form was filled out when a child returned home, sometimes years later. Where noted, some ledgers contain only Admission or only Discharge forms. In these cases, each individual page was dedicated to a single child and only contains information about the condition of that child's home, either when she was admitted to NJYA, or when she was released to her family. The ledgers provide a wealth of detail about home life and living arrangements among poor and immigrant New Yorkers in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Parent Surrender Forms were used when parents or family members relinquished control of their children to the institution. These are brief forms and contain little more than children's names and the names and signatures (or marks) of the parents.
Apprentice Records kept track of older children indentured to homes in the West. The records contain information about the lives and experiences of these children and the families who took them in. Indentured children and the families who housed them reported their progress and satisfaction with placement regularly. The NYJA maintained contact with these children until they reached adulthood, and sometimes afterward, if formerly indentured children remained in contact. The Apprentice Records therefore give an excellent overview of the experience of "orphan train" children.
Transfer Slips record where children were sent (usually to the NYJA) after arriving at the House of Reception.
Applications for Discharge were required of all parents and guardians wishing to retrieve their children from the asylum. The forms record how fit the applicants are to care for a child and whether discharge was granted or denied. Most of the children applied for were discharged to their guardians.