Social benefits did not exist for families in Britain in the 1800’s and many faced the difficult prospect of sending their children to orphanages because they could not afford to care for them. Some families placed their children in shelters as a temporary measure to survive desperate conditions and planned to retrieve the children when social and economic conditions improved. In some cases, parents saw the planned child emigration to the colonies as a way to ensure a better life for their children that they could not provide.
Emigration: 1869 - 1932
100 000 British children were sent to Canada through ‘assisted juvenile emigration’. Shelters were set up in London and Liverpool. Children were shipped from Marchmount, MacPherson’s Homes, Liverpool Sheltering Home, Quarrier’s Home (Scotland), Fagan’s Home (Dublin) and Barnardo’s Homes. Although the children placed in these shelters or ‘homes’ were believed to be orphans, two thirds had at least one living parent.
Receiving ‘homes’ were established in Canada and the children were briefly sent to these before being distributed to local farms. Many of these children were placed in the Ottawa Valley. About 70% of the children sent to Canada were placed in Ontario. Children were sent without identification or personal belongings and often without their families’ knowledge. Some were registered in school using the surname of the family they were placed with and then later used their original family surname as adults.
Conditions of Placement:
Adoptive guardians were required to register the children in school and provide a Christian upbringing. The children were to be indentured until the age of 18 years. Small fees were supplied for the fostering of very young children. Some children were adopted and raised as a member of the family. Other children experienced severe circumstances and ran away while others were sent back to the receiving homes and were placed with another family. The conditions that the children experienced varied from one home to the next. Inspectors were required to visit the children annually in their placements and file a report about their welfare. The accuracy of the reports could be unreliable and the inspections did not always occur.
The ‘Custody Act’ 1891
The ‘Custody Act’ was amended making child trafficking legal (this act was also called: ‘Barnardo’s Relief Act’ because of Dr. Barnardo’s work lobbying for it) ‘The Act stated that parents who abandoned or deserted their child should be denied their right to custody.
1914 – 1918 The War Years
Home Children were not sent to Canada during the war years. During these years, ‘Guest Children’ from evacuation areas were sent on a temporary basis during the war for their own safety. These children returned home when it was safe to do so.
Canadian Government passed a law that children under the age of 14 could not be sent to Canada unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. This slowed the flow of young children to Canada.
It is estimated that about 4 million Canadians are descendants of British Home Children. Attempts to reunite living Home Children with their British roots and families is underway and funds are available to facilitate reunification. Researchers are developing data bases to assist descendants of Home Children in family history investigations.
Nora Archibald was born in 1890. She arrived in Canada in 1893.
She was raised by Alfred and Janet Lawson. Nora attended S. S. #6 Middleville School. Nora Archibald married Reginald Wilson on June 27, 1911. Reginald was also a Home Child. Reginald and Nora lived in the house on the north corner of Galbraith Road and the 6th Concession, Middleville.
Reginald (Reggie) Bowden
Reginald (Reggie) Bowden
Reggie Bowden was born in Hatherleigh, Devon in England. His mother, Blanche Mary Bowden, was unable to care for him and relied on fostercare for Reggie’s early years. When he was 11 years of age, Reggie was admitted to Barnardos in January of 1919. He was sent to Canada and arrived in St. John, New Brunswick in March 1920. After a few unsuitable placements where Reggie was badly mistreated, he was placed with the McGill family of Pakenham in September 1922. Here Reggie found a family that could provide a safe place for him to grow up. He stayed with the family until he was 17 years old. Then he travelled west to find work. He returned to the McGill farm many times over the years. It is at McGill’s that Reggie met his future wife, Leeta Royce of Cedar Hill who worked there. He married Leeta in May 1937. They had three children, Joan, David and Carole. The couple bought a farm in Tatlock between the 7th and 8th Concessions. They raised cattle and Reggie supplemented the farm income by trapping in the winter season. Reggie also worked on logging and bridge building. He had many life long interests including horses and enjoyed painting in later years. Reggie died on September 28th, 1996. Leeta had died in 1983. When he was in his senior years, Reggie participated in an investigation into his early life as a Home Child. A book that details Reggie’s life story was published.
James Byers was born circa 1880 in Scotland and came to Canada in 1883 at the age of 3. He was raised by John and Jane Erskine of Rosetta who lived in the log cabin on Gibson Road just off Wolf Grove Road.
James married Margaret Bowes of Drummond. They owned land and lived in Bathurst Township. James’ recorded occupation was a jeweller. Margaret died in 1936 at the age of 53 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Perth. They had two children, John (Jackie) born circa 1908 and Margaret born circa 1911. Margaret (daughter) is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Middleville.
L - R: James Byers as a young boy, James Byers as an adult, John (Jackie) Byers, son of James and Margaret Byers
Christopher (Christie) Dallison
Christopher (Christie) Dallison
Christie Dallison was born in Sparkhill, Birmingham, England circa 1911. His parents, Henry and Ada Dallison, lived at 6 Clarence Road in a six room house. His father was a milk man employed by the dairy industry. He had three older sisters: Isabel (12), Alice (8) and Edith (3) when he was born. As a youth, Christie’s listed occupation in Birmingham was instrument maker. He came to Canada in 1927 at the age of 16.
Christie was raised by Dave and Isabella Rintoul of Galbraith on Lot 21, Concession 11 of Lanark Township. He worked with the family on their farm. He participated in family activities like skating. Christie was involved in community events. He is pictured in Clayton with a group in front of the Grist Mill in Clayton in 1931. Christie was also listed on the program in Clayton performing a recitation in 1935.
Christie returned to visit his family home in Birmingham in December of 1931 and stayed there a few months until April of 1932 when he returned to the Rintoul home in Galbraith. Christie continued to live with the Rintoul family into adulthood. He is pictured working with Dave in a logging scene. He continued to live in Galbraith with the family after the sudden death of Dave in 1935. He is listed on the Lanark Township voter’s list in the late 1930’s.
Christie attended Margaret’s wedding which was held at the Rintoul home. He worked with Dave’s brother, William, driving logs from Taylor Lake to the mill in Clayton.
Later in his life, Christie is listed with a wife and son, John in a voter list in Hilton, in the Township of Brighton, Ontario. Christie died at the age of 95 in 2006. He is buried in Trenton.
L - R: Margaret, Christie, Dave, John G Rintoul, Rintoul homestead circa 1942, Dave with team, Christie and Marjorie Thomas
Edith Jefferies was born in Leeds, near Liverpool, England in November 1906. She came to Canada in 1910. Edith was adopted by Minnie Smith Erskine and raised by the Erskine family of Rosetta in the log cabin on Gibson Road off Wolf Grove Road. Edith attended S. S. #6 Middleville School. When Minnie married Wesley Borrowman, Edith helped out at the Borrowman house with Minnie and Wesley’s twins. Edith remained with the Borrowman family after the death of Minnie Erskine Borrowman in 1914. As a young woman, Edith is pictured with friends in the community. Later in life, Edith worked in a hospital in Sarnia, Ontario. She continued to correspond with Wesley Borrowman by mail. Edith died in Sarnia, Ontario and is buried there.
George (Geordie) Slade
George (Geordie) Slade, was born in England in November 1898. As a child, he lived in the Liverpool Sheltering House. At the age of 11, he was sent to Canada on the Corsican ship in a group of 90 children with chaperones, Miss Simpson, Miss Colquhoun and Dame Mary Challinor. The group arrived in Halifax Harbour on February 2th, 1910. The group then took the train to the Eastern Townships, where they were received at Knowlton Home, the home of Lady Louisa Birt. A few days later, they were to be sent to farms in Ontario and Quebec.
Geordie was adopted by Archibald and Beatrice Penman Manson who were 81 and 71, respectively. He was raised by their daughter, Jane Manson at 157 Hall Street, Middleville in the house across from the Fairgrounds. Geordie worked on the Manson family farm and received an annual salary of $100 in 1921. In 1935, Geordie resided at RR2, Clayton, Ontario. In 1949, he resided at 157 Middleville, Ontario.
Later, in the 1950’s, he lived with Mary and Kate Hogg at 69 Clyde Street in Almonte. These sisters would have been related through his adoptive brother’s wife, Christina Hogg Manson. He helped the sisters with handyman maintenance jobs and inherited their home after their deaths. Geordie moved into a nursing home in 1980.
During his life, Geordie was an avid musician with a collection of many instruments. He played an accordion, banjo, spoons, mouth organ and harmonica. When he visited the Rodger’s family, Geordie liked to drink tea, talk and play music. He liked to make up songs.
Geordie was known for his inventive nature. He built a merry-go-round in his backyard for neighbourhood children. He also built robots during the 70’s and displayed them around the village at Pioneer Days. Geordie flattened enough tin cans to use them to roof his house.
Geordie is by many remembered for driving groups of children in his car to swim at Gibson’s on Taylor Lake.
George died in 1986 at the age of 88 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Middleville
Reginald Wilson was born around 1890. He arrived in Canada on May 5th, 1903 at the age of 13.
Reginald was raised by the Rathwell family in the Fergusons Falls area. He married Nora Archibald on June 27, 1911. Reginald and Nora lived in the house on the north corner of Galbraith Road and the Sixth Concession, Middleville.
William Wilson was born March 20, 1887 in Glasgow Scotland. He was raised by Ann Bremner Harding in a house across from the fairgrounds in Middleville. He attended SS #6, Middleville School. As a youngster, Willie worked at the Penman sawmill.
He travelled west around 1912. Willie enlisted in the army while living in Winnipeg. He served overseas in the Royal Canadian Artillery during WW 1. His family was notified in 1918 that he was missing in action. Willie’s body was never recovered.