Approximately twelve per cent of Canada’s population can claim descent from young immigrants known as Home Children. Between 1863-1939, fifty different British child care societies shipped about 118,000 youngsters to Canada and placed them with Canadian families. Though younger children like Hetty and Pip were sometimes adopted, older ones were usually taken on as farm labourers or domestic servants.
In recent years, this practice has been the source of great controversy, but heartless as this child migration programme might seem nowadays, Victorian child care societies looked at it from a Victorian standpoint. Victorians tended to be more concerned with children’s moral and spiritual well-being than their emotional well-being. Children’s Homes were designed to provided food, shelter, spiritual guidance, and vocational training. As they filled, it became increasingly difficult for them to take in new children without doing something with the ones they already had. Hard work was considered a virtue, and since youngsters had to learn how to make a living, working in a clean, open, rural environment seemed preferable to than working in polluted, overcrowded cities rife with disease and crime. A small percentage of the organizations involved might have been tempted by the £2 Canada offered for every immigrant child, but the majority simply wanted to give their charges a chance to make something of themselves in a land bright with prospects. And many did, but as with any social programme, it did not work out well for all of them.
The sketch pictured above is of the Hazelbrae Home in Peterborough, a Barnardo distributing centre for new arrivals. It first began receiving children in 1883.
Anyone wanting information on a Barnardo Home Child ancestor should contact:
Those seeking information about ancestors who came from Scotland through the Quarrier Homes can contact: http://www.quarriers.org.uk/resource/trace-your-history/
For general Home Child stories and information, check out: