Thank to a state documentary source prior to Italian Unity, which appeared remarkably precise and which we have complemented by delving into the local parochial archives, we have been allowed to observe, within a hilly area of the nowadays province of Parma, in mid-nineteenth century, the massive presence of subjects - most frequently children and young people - defined by the very source as 'children of the hospital'? (Figli dell'Ospedale). The Hospital of abandoned children of Parma (l'Ospedale degli esposti di Parma) was an institution intended to safeguard and take care of abandoned childhood, then to place the children in families of the region. In such reception homes, nurses were busy with bringing up the little children, against a compensation paid by the institution. In mid-nineteenth century, the borough of Pellegrino Parmense constituted, because of the very characteristics of its territory, but also of the type of its economy which made it a specific space, the ideal place within the whole duchy of Parma where abandoned children might be brought up. The used sources, mainly a 1849 census concerning the whole of the investigated area, have allowed us to evaluate the size reached by that phenomenon. Besides, concerning a more restricted area corresponding to one of the parishes of the borough, the parish of Iggio, and thanks to the marriage acts there, we have been able to follow the destiny of the numerous abandoned children which had been sent to that place by the Hospital of Parma, and in particular to analyse the demographic behaviours of the abandoned children where they had been living after leaving the hospital.
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