Request an Orphan Train Presentation

Presentations by the National Orphan Train Complex

Curator Heather Bigwood offers presentations on the history of the orphan train movement in-person or by video conference. These presentations can be tailored to fit your needs, but generally cover the beginnings of the orphan train movement, how the system worked, how it ended, and local examples.

Speaker’s fees for Curator Heather are as follows:

  • Pre-recorded: Virtual presentation (one week rental) – $25
  • Live: Virtual presentation on online platform, such as Zoom – $35
  • In-person: 40 miles or less from Concordia – $50 + mileage
  • In-Person: 41 miles or more from Concordia (within Kansas) – $100 +mileage
  • In-Person: Out-of-state bordering Kansas – $150 + mileage or airfare
  • In-Person: Out-of-state non-bordering to Kansas – $250 + mileage or airfare

If the presentation will necessitate an overnight stay, we also ask the host to cover the cost of a hotel room. Current mileage rate is $0.625 per mile.

To request a presentation, please email Heather at curator@orphantraindepot.org or call (785)243-4471.

If you are interested in hosting a more local presenter, please see our Speaker’s Bureau below.

Speaker’s Bureau

Below is a listing of people who are willing to speak on the topic of the Orphan Trains.  They are listed in alphabetical order by state.  For more information or if there is not a speaker in your area, please contact us at curator@orphantraindepot.org or (785)243-4471. Want to be added to our list of speakers? Contact our curator Heather at the same email or phone number.

Nationwide

Heather Bigwood

Curator, National Orphan Train Complex
curator@orphantraindepot.org
(785)243-4471
www.orphantraindepot.org
Standard fees: Listed at top of page.
Virtual options: Yes

Riders on the Orphan Train

The National Orphan Train Complex’s Official Outreach Group
Phil Lancaster and Alison Moore
ridersontheorphantrain@yahoo.com
(512)393-9456
www.ridersontheorphantrain.org
Standard fees: $1,200, plus mileage and expenses
Virtual options: No

John Shontz

Orphan Train Riders – Making a Difference
Orphan Train Project
Historian, researcher
orphantrainrail@outlook.com
(406)443-4534
https://orphantraindepot.org/research-and-registration/orphan-train-itineraries/
Standard fees: Travel and lodging expenses
Virtual options: Yes, contact for details

John is a railroad expert who works with orphan train descendants to re-discover the actual itineraries of orphan trains and trace a rider’s journey West. He is willing to present in person anywhere in the country, and virtually to in-person groups.

Michael Brophy

Genealogist, Lecturer
mbrophy@brophygen.com
(781)738-2671
www.brophygen.com
Standard fees: See website
Virtual options: Yes

Michael Brophy is a professional genealogical researcher, heir search specialist, and lecturer from the Boston area. He has served as Board Member on the Massachusetts Genealogical Council. Mike was featured on the Irish TV series Dead Money, a genealogy TV show about heir searchers and conducted research for Who Do You Think You Are?

Back to top

Arizona

Lori Vicker

Speaker
lkvicker@gmail.com
(515)249-6684
Standard fees: $150 plus mileage
Virtual options: Not preferred, but contact Lori for specifics
Lori presents in Arizona during the winter months. In the summer, she presents in Iowa and Minnesota.

Back to top

Arkansas

Back to top

California

Judith Jacobus

Descendant
stately07@dslextreme.com
Standard fee:
Virtual options:
Judie is willing to travel 75-100 miles from the Long Beach Area for presentations.

Judie, a retired elementary school speech/language specialist and teacher, will tell the story of her father, John Lukes Jacobus, who came from the Children’s Aid Society in New York City and rode the Orphan Train to Ottawa, Kansas in 1915 when he was 2 1/2 years old.  Supplemented by a power point presentation of pictures from her father’s life, she will also discuss the history of the “placing out” process, the work of the National Orphan Train complex in “preserving the past for the future” and will provide time for questions.

Back to top

Delaware

Donna Nordmark Aviles

Descendant, Author
daviles@comcast.net
(302)543-5130
www.orphantrainbook.com
Standard fee:
Virtual options:
Ms. Aviles can be hired independently or through Delaware Humanities.

Donna is the granddaughter of rider Oliver Nordmark and the author of two award winning books, Fly Little Bird, Fly! and Beyond the Orphan Train.   A member of the Delaware Humanities Forum Speakers Bureau, she is a frequent speaker at schools, retirement communities, and community organizations including genealogical societies, libraries, book clubs, etc.  Her one hour interactive presentation includes a history of the Orphan Train Movement as well as audio recordings of Oliver Nordmark talking about his experiences and adventures.  The presentation is tailored to the age of the audience and a book signing is offered at the conclusion of the talk if desired.  Ideally, the equipment for a PowerPoint presentation should be available (projector/screen & microphone) however it is not required.  

Back to top

Georgia

Martha Gould England

Descendant
(404)358-1609
Standard fee: None
Virtual options: No
Martha presents in the Atlanta area

Back to top

Illinois

Back to top

Indiana

Back to top

Iowa

Dennis Wilson

Historian
dandawilson@netconx.net
(641)423-5328
Standard fee: varies depending on distance traveled
Virtual options: Yes
Dennis presents in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

My interest stems from my forty year career as a Railroad conductor and interest in railroad history. I do an hour presentation with or without power point. The presentation starts with one of the hundreds of Orphans stories, acted out taking about ten minutes. I try to change the story each presentation.  The rest deals with the history of the placing out movement both The Children’s Aid Society, and New York Foundlings Society. Also, I address the pros and cons of the Orphan Trains, movement against, states passing laws, foster care, and the end of the movement. Finally, as we view children today, what did we learn from the Orphan Train movement, and why is it important to keep that history alive.

Lori Vicker

Speaker
lkvicker@gmail.com
(515)249-6684
Standard fees: $150 plus mileage
Virtual options: Not preferred, but contact Lori for specifics
Lori presents in Arizona during the winter months. In the summer, she presents in Iowa and Minnesota.

Back to top

Kansas

National Orphan Train Complex

See top of page for contact info and fees.

Serena Price and Erica Sims

Descendants
serenakennyp@gmail.com
(913)260-0334
Standard fee: Free, but suggested donation to NOTC in honor of orphan train rider Ethel Barney Malone Staley
Virtual options:
Serena and Erica present in the Kansas City Metro area.

Back to top

Maryland

Donna Nordmark Aviles

Descendant, Author
daviles@comcast.net
(302)543-5130
www.orphantrainbook.com
Standard fee:
Virtual options:

Ms. Aviles can be hired independently or through Delaware Humanities.

Donna is the granddaughter of rider Oliver Nordmark and the author of two award winning books, Fly Little Bird, Fly! and Beyond the Orphan Train.   A member of the Delaware Humanities Forum Speakers Bureau, she is a frequent speaker at schools, retirement communities, and community organizations including genealogical societies, libraries, book clubs, etc.  Her one hour interactive presentation includes a history of the Orphan Train Movement as well as audio recordings of Oliver Nordmark talking about his experiences and adventures.  The presentation is tailored to the age of the audience and a book signing is offered at the conclusion of the talk if desired.  Ideally, the equipment for a PowerPoint presentation should be available (projector/screen & microphone) however it is not required.  

Back to top

Michigan

Sherry A. Burton

Author
sherryaburton@outlook.com
www.sherryaburton.com
Standard fee: $300, plus expenses if traveling out of lower Michigan
Virtual options: Yes
Sherry mostly presents in Michigan, but is willing to travel elsewhere.

Back to top

Minnesota

Dennis Wilson

Historian
dandawilson@netconx.net
(641)423-5328
Standard fee: varies depending on distance traveled
Virtual options: Yes
Dennis presents in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota.

My interest stems from my forty year career as a Railroad conductor and interest in railroad history. I do an hour presentation with or without power point. The presentation starts with one of the hundreds of Orphans stories, acted out taking about ten minutes. I try to change the story each presentation.  The rest deals with the history of the placing out movement both The Children’s Aid Society, and New York Foundlings Society. Also, I address the pros and cons of the Orphan Trains, movement against, states passing laws, foster care, and the end of the movement. Finally, as we view children today, what did we learn from the Orphan Train movement, and why is it important to keep that history alive.

Dorothy Lund Nelson

Author
dlundnelson@hotmail.com
(507)273-8208
(507)282-6269
Standard fee:
Virtual options:
Presents April – November

Dorothy is the author of Orphan Train Rider Burke’s Journeys, and is available to tell the stories of America’s lost history.  She shares the experiences of the orphan train riders as they found their new homes, through the use of videos, slides, role-play, and costumes, Dorothy’s program becomes a living experience for the participants.  Program length is one hour.  She prefers a group of 100 or less so that she can interact with her listeners.

Dorothy uses her computer, slideshow, film clips, music, and costumes to tell the story.  All she needs is a projection screen, 6 foot table or card table, and chairs for the participants.

Lori Vicker

Speaker
lkvicker@gmail.com
(515)249-6684
Standard fees: $150 plus mileage
Virtual options: Not preferred, but contact Lori for specifics
Lori presents in Arizona during the winter months. In the summer, she presents in Iowa and Minnesota.

Renée Wendinger

Descendant, Author
reneewendinger@gmail.com
(507)766-6239
www.theorphantrain.com
Standard fee: Contact for fees
Virtual options:
Renee will travel for speaking engagements outside Minnesota upon request.

Renée is the author of Extra! Extra! The Orphan Trains and Newsboys of New York, a nonfiction documentary book, and her novella, Last Train Home, an orphan train story, that can be purchased through the National Orphan Train Complex.  Renée is a speaker on the subject of the Immigration Orphan Train Experience since 1989, and offers an authentic historical PowerPoint to educators and schools, community and civic organizations, and libraries and historical centers. Renée is an avid orphan train historian, president of Orphan Train Riders of New York, and aspires to keep this phenomenal part of American history known as the orphan trains, genuine. Renée is also the daughter of an orphan train rider. Her mother, Sophia Kaminsky Hillesheim, rode the rails as a two year old from New York City to the state of Minnesota.

Back to top

Missouri

Shirley Andrews

Descendant
shugandy3@gmail.com
Standard fee: Travel expenses
Virtual options:
Shirley covers the Central Missouri area.

Shirley has put together an excellent presentation which she willingly gives to various groups in the Jefferson City, MO, area.  In this presentation, she “Remembers Mama” as she tells of the life and achievements of orphan train rider Irma Craig Schnieders.

She is the daughter of Irma Craig, Orphan Train Rider, and is a past officer and board member of the Orphan Train Heritage Society of Missouri.

Mitzi Linsenbardt

Speaker
bobmitzi@charter.net
Standard fee: Free, plus travel expenses, donations to NOTC are accepted
Virtual options:
Mitzi will talk to groups within 60 miles of Sedalia, MO.

Mitzi tells the story of the Orphan Train to local groups and children in class room settings.  She provides her own pictures, books, and supplies.

No special equipment is needed for the presentation.

Greg Markway

Descendant and DNA researcher
gregmarkway@gmail.com
(573)298-1040
www.orphantraindna.com
Standard fee: Negotiable depending on location and type of presentation
Virtual options: Yes
Greg will present in person to groups in and around Missouri.

Greg Markway is a clinical psychologist from Jefferson City Missouri. His grandfather rode the orphan train from the New York Foundling to Central Missouri in 1901. Greg used his own DNA test results to identify his grandfather’s parents. Greg is the co-founder of the Orphan Train DNA group on Facebook where he helps other descendants look for their ancestors. He also has a blog where he writes about orphan train history and provides tips on searching.

Serena Price and Erica Sims

Descendants
serenakennyp@gmail.com
(913)260-0334
Standard fee: Free, but suggested donation to NOTC in honor of orphan train rider Ethel Barney Malone Staley
Virtual options:
Serena and Erica present in the Kansas City Metro area.

Back to top

Montana

John Shontz

Orphan Train Riders – Making a Difference
Orphan Train Project
Historian, researcher
orphantrainrail@outlook.com
(406)443-4534
https://orphantraindepot.org/research-and-registration/orphan-train-itineraries/
Standard fees: Travel and lodging expenses
Virtual options: Yes, contact for details

John is a railroad expert who works with orphan train descendants to re-discover the actual itineraries of orphan trains and trace a rider’s journey West. He is willing to present in person anywhere in the country, and virtually to in-person groups.

Back to top

Nebraska

Micheline Creager

Descendant
mickeycreager@gmail.com
(402)489-2700 or (402)440-3224
Standard fee:
Virtual options:
Micheline is located in Lincoln, Nebraska, and is willing to present to groups within driving distance of Lincoln at no cost.

Micheline gives a history of the Orphan Train, incorporating her mother’s story. She can very the length, depending on the audience, or time allotted for the program. She includes pictures and books.

Pippa White

Performer
pipcompany@aol.com
(402)477-6914; cell (402)560-2786
www.pippawhite1co.com
Standard fee:
Virtual options:

Pippa is a professional actress with extensive theater and television experience.  She grew up in San Francisco, appeared regularly on television as a child, trained at the American Conservatory Theater Academy, and for five years was seen as hostess of a daily morning television show on ABC.  Coming to Nebraska led to her pursuing an education (UNL 1982), starting a family, and reestablishing a career with work at the Nebraska Repertory Theater, arts in education programs with both the Council and the Lied Center, and finally, not just one, but several one-woman shows drawing on many different sources for a usual and entertaining solo productions.

Pippa’s show The Orphan Train is suitable for clubs, classrooms, living rooms, or theaters.  It has few technical requirements and is performed with a minimum of costumes and props.

Back to top

New Jersey

Donna Nordmark Aviles

Descendant, Author
daviles@comcast.net
(302)543-5130
www.orphantrainbook.com
Standard fee:
Virtual options:

Ms. Aviles can be hired independently or through Delaware Humanities.

Donna is the granddaughter of rider Oliver Nordmark and the author of two award winning books, Fly Little Bird, Fly! and Beyond the Orphan Train.   A member of the Delaware Humanities Forum Speakers Bureau, she is a frequent speaker at schools, retirement communities, and community organizations including genealogical societies, libraries, book clubs, etc.  Her one hour interactive presentation includes a history of the Orphan Train Movement as well as audio recordings of Oliver Nordmark talking about his experiences and adventures.  The presentation is tailored to the age of the audience and a book signing is offered at the conclusion of the talk if desired.  Ideally, the equipment for a PowerPoint presentation should be available (projector/screen & microphone) however it is not required.  

Back to top

New York

Tom Riley

Author, Historian
totrwriter@aol.com
Standard fee: $150
Virtual options:
His presentation requires a DVD player.  The program lasts for an hour and 15 minutes.

Author of the books The Orphan Train Riders Vol. I & II, Tom speaks to groups at new York libraries and Elderhostels.  Tom was instrumental in the discovery of 26 boxes of information from the Five Points House of Industry, which is currently located at the Rockland County Historical Society.

Back to top

North Dakota

Back to top

Pennsylvania

Donna Nordmark Aviles

Descendant, Author
daviles@comcast.net
(302)543-5130
www.orphantrainbook.com
Standard fee:
Virtual options:

Ms. Aviles can be hired independently or through Delaware Humanities.

Donna is the granddaughter of rider Oliver Nordmark and the author of two award winning books, Fly Little Bird, Fly! and Beyond the Orphan Train.   A member of the Delaware Humanities Forum Speakers Bureau, she is a frequent speaker at schools, retirement communities, and community organizations including genealogical societies, libraries, book clubs, etc.  Her one hour interactive presentation includes a history of the Orphan Train Movement as well as audio recordings of Oliver Nordmark talking about his experiences and adventures.  The presentation is tailored to the age of the audience and a book signing is offered at the conclusion of the talk if desired.  Ideally, the equipment for a PowerPoint presentation should be available (projector/screen & microphone) however it is not required.

Back to top

South Dakota

Back to top

Texas

Back to top

Wisconsin

Back to top