Carroll County's Outdoor Pensioners
During the 19th century and into the 20th century, Carroll County newspapers (Westminster’s American Sentinel and Democratic Advocate) published a list of local government expenditures that included the amount spent on outdoor pensions. The reports usually appeared in issues in August, September, or October. Outdoor pensions were essentially a form of welfare that came from the local government, rather than the state or federal government. The recipients were called outdoor pensioners. The stipend was given to allow poor individuals to continue living independently, but it might also be given to a family with a disabled family member, to a woman with an illegitimate child, or for numerous other reasons that are usually not specified. Lists of individuals receiving pensions appear in a ledger of Carroll County government expenses from 1858 through 1872 that is online as part of the Maryland State Archives Special Collections (SC 6166-1-1).
Initially, some, but not all, pensioners had a trustee who likely ensured the money was spent wisely. One trustee might oversee several pensioners. Pensioners were listed by the election district in which they lived, sometimes with their race (e.g. col’d) noted, but not always. Should two people have the same name, look for the election district as a way to separate them. After 1861 the lists did not include the names of the trustees. The spellings of names sometimes differ from year to year, but most likely represent the same person.
The amount of the pension varied widely. It appears the highest sums were awarded to individuals with a disabled person in the household, even if the disability was not specified. Some individuals appear on the lists for many years before dropping off. In some instances, there is a notation that the pensioner died, in others there is no explanation for his or her disappearance. Before the construction of the Carroll County Alms House, some individuals were paid pensions, then moved to the Alms House when it opened. Some individuals were removed from the roles and sent to mental hospitals for treatment.
When genealogists look for their forebears, it is frequently difficult to find the individuals who appear on the pensioners’ lists. They may not have owned property, had no trade, were never in trouble with the law, never served in the military, etc. They simply fell between the cracks. CCGS encourages anyone to consult the outdoor pensioner lists for hard-to-find relatives.
The below links will provide a list of Outdoor Pensioners for that period:
Citation: Image Statement of Carroll County Government expenditures for 1846 from the September 17, 1846 Carroll County Democrat newspaper.
Written and Compiled by Mimi Ashcraft