Bethany Children’s Home Awarded Mocavo Digitization Grant

In November of last year we announced the first ever Mocavo Community Digitization Grant. We committed to provide up to $25,000 in digitization services to preserve historical records and make them available for free access. Today we are delighted to announce the recipient of the Mocavo Community Digitization Grant is the Bethany Children’s Home.

Bethany Children’s home is a regional ministry serving over 300 youth and their families, every year, in Eastern Pennsylvania. The home began in 1862 as one man’s dream. On a trip home from Norfolk to Philadelphia, Rev. Emmanuel Boehringer passed through the aftermath of the Battle of Antietam, where 25,000 men lay scattered across the countryside dead or wounded. As he stopped to help bandage their wounds, many of the men asked: “What will become of my children?” And thus Rev. Boehringer’s dream for an orphans’ home was born.

Upon returning to Philadelphia, he began taking orphans into his own home at 702 Morris Street. On September 21, 1863, the home’s first resident, six year-old Caroline Engel, arrived at the Boehringer home. Originally called “The Orphans Home of the Shepherd of the Lambs,” the organization began to grow and by 1871 it had found a new home in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania, where the name was officially changed to Bethany Children’s Home.

A previous resident of Bethany from 1937-1952, Carl Bloss, initially returned seeking genealogical clues and answers regarding his paternal family, but found that Bethany had no archival program in place. In 2009, Carl began volunteering to organize and properly preserve their significant collections, which include photographs, 16mm motion picture film, scrapbooks, documents, and registers. This past January, Mr. Bloss submitted a very unique proposal to Mocavo to digitize two ledger books containing information about the children who were residents of the home between 1863-1990. The ledger books contain a wealth of information including pictures of the children that resided in the home, their birth date, baptism and christening information, details about their birth parents, adoption records, and much more. After reviewing the many worthy submissions that we received, we knew that Bethany Children’s House would be the perfect recipient of the Mocavo Community Digitization Grant.

We are inspired by the work that the volunteers at Bethany Children’s Home have done to preserve this information, and are excited to help bring this valuable content online for the rest of the world to experience. We have begun work on digitizing these records and will make them available for free at later this summer.

If you have any questions about this story, or about the Mocavo Community Digitization Grant, please feel free to contact us at