The study aims at elucidating the fate of orphans in 19th century Sweden. A cohort of all children born in the region of Sundsvall was followed. The Cox regression model was used. The population increased 12-fold in the sawmill parish, and doubled in the other parishes. Every 13th child lost either his or her mother or father. The death risk represented by being a motherless infant exceeded every other death risk for the child, and was further enhanced if parents were crofters or coming from the sawmill parish. For children beyond the age of 1 year, factors other than parental deprivation became decisive. Step-parents had an immense positive influence on the survival of the children. The social network worked relatively well for those children who were orphans beyond the age of 1 year. The motherless infants had the worst outcome. The best chance for survival was found for children with step-parents.