Some children arrived with only a name written on a tag pinned to their jacket.
"I want to be like a sunflower so that even in my darkest days, I will stand tall and find the sunlight."
There were records kept by the British Homes that sent groups of children across the ocean to Receiving Homes in Canada. Small trunks containing clothes, writing material and a Bible provided by these agencies were packed on the ships to accompany the children on their long journeys. Upon arrival, they would be given a medical check and soon after be taken to the train station to be sent across the province to a waiting family. The name tag would identify them to the family waiting where the train stopped. Typically, the children were dispersed to their destination within a few days. Demand for children far outpaced the supply most of the time. There were formal indentures that required the receiving family to agree to provide food, lodging, clothing, education and religious instruction. Children by the age of eight would be expected to complete work in return. Boys would work on farms and girls would work in households. An inspector was required to visit the child once a year and file a report. This did not always happen.
This is part of the story of how many British Home Children arrived in Canada mainly between 1869 and 1939. It is estimated that over 11 percent of Canadians today are descended from a British Home Child.
There is more to the story. Many decades later, a name can be the key to unlocking the secrets of the past. Beginning with a name, records can be found. A life story can be told. In many cases, children who were brought to Canada as Home Children sought to erase the stigma and pain of their childhoods as they became adults and made a new life for themselves. They did not share stories of the past. Today, the descendants of these children are able to trace the journey of their ancestor and honour the resiliency of these individuals. Many grew up, had successful careers and raised families of their own.
Home Children Canada is an organization with a vast amount of resources for those interested in researching a Home Child or learning more about this subject.
The Middleville and District Museum will be featuring the life stories of Home Children with local connections. Visitors will be able to learn who these children were, who they lived with, where they went to school and what unfolded in their lives as they grew up. Volunteers have researched the lives of the children often starting with only a name. The local children have been added to the Museum’s Lanark Family Trees on Ancestry.ca.
Plan to drop by the Middleville and District Museum this Saturday, September 23rd between noon and 4pm as we recognize the lives of the children.
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.