Monday, January 4, 2010

British Home Children - You could be a descendent!

Canada: Land of opportunity! But to children it was a scary feeling of the unknown.

To thousands of children the unknown was what was intriguing and what made them think they would have a good new life in Canada. Yet the unknown is what was scary and unsettling for the thousands that were orphaned or had parents alive but were not in their care.

There are many questions in everyone's family tree and there is always that one person or that one family that you can't stop thinking about. The answer has to be out there. It's probably quite simple but the documents that I have to go through seem so overwhelming. My questions were about one family of four sisters who in the story the family told were sent to Canada by their grandfather. I had to know why they were sent to Canada. Why would someone send a 16, 12, 7, 4, and 3 year old to Canada by themselves in 1885? What happened to lead up to this horrific situation?

So I started with the 1901 Canadian census, I found my great grandmother there. Then I went back farther to the 1891 Canadian census. No luck! Well, I guess I could look in the England census so, I had the 1881 England census and I was off on a different route to see what I could find. I couldn’t find what I needed so I hired two expert researcher in England to find marriage and death certificates of my ancestors parents. A short while later I stood holding them in my hands with great appreciation. I knew my searching was not finished yet. My ancestor's story was actually coming together with many turns and devastating events that I learned about her life along the way. I knew I couldn’t let it be just yet.

I looked the certificates and the other info that the researchers found for hours trying to find an answer in the documents with no avail. In researching my ancestors I shared my knowledge and findings with my family. It was one day that my mother suggested to me that maybe my great grandmother may have been a home child that gave me a lead on this individual I had so many questions unanswered. Checking into a whole new topic for me didn’t take long.

One day I settled down at my computer and typed in “Home Children” which resulted in a government search engine. (
Typing in my great grandmothers name, pressed enter and there it was in front of me. I just sat there reading her name over and over, it had taken so long to get here but it was so simple at the same time! Along with her details was a list of the other passengers on the ship she came to Canada with. To my surprise her sisters were also named followed with their age and the information. My findings only answered a few of my questions.

With every step I took in this journey I would come up with another question or many other questions. To make along story short, I ended up contacting Barnado's in England and have the reports of my great grandmother when she first left England until she married my great grandfather.

The British Home Children incident was one that left many children vulnerable but Canada was supportive in placing thousands of children around the country. Many children were put in bad situations but others were treated like family or cared for in a loving manner.

There were many homes that the children went to live until they were placed in families’ home to work for a period of time or adopted by families.

Important Note: If you click on the title it will take you to a site (Library and Archives Canada)where you can search the name of an individual to see if they were a Home Child.

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Northern Girl