British Home Children in Canada, 1869-1930
I assure you I found nothing worse, nothing more degrading, nothing so hopeless,
nothing nearly so intolerably dull and miserable as the life I left behind me in
the East End of London.
... Aldous Huxley
August 14, 2012:
Added John Joseph KELLY to our table of Home Children, below.
May 12, 2004:
The National Archives has a searchable database of British Home Children.
The major sending agencies were the Barnardo, Quarrier and McPherson organizations in England (mostly London) and Scotland (Glasgow).
In downtown Ottawa, on or near Bronson Avenue, there is a monument dedicated to the home children who came to the Ottawa area (see photo below).
Photo source: Library and Archives, Canada
Children from overcrowded city neighbourhoods were sent to Canada as indentured servants, mainly to work on farms in Ontario until the age of 18. Most of the home
children left the farms and settled in the cities -- Ottawa, Toronto and Hamilton.
September 9, 2012:
Two very good books are Labouring Children: British Immigrant Apprentices to Canada, 1869-1924,
by Joy Parr, and also Lost Children of the Empire, by Philip Bean and Joy Melville, Unwin Hyman Limited, London.
These books are listed in our Bibliography.
May 16, 2008:
Dear Mr. Lewis,
I was looking for information on the terms of "indenturedness" for British Home Children
and came across your May 12, 2004 posting on http://www.bytown.net/homekids.htm
I had a couple of questions:
1. Was it Joy Parr's book that gave you the age 18 termination of indentured servitude
or is that from another source? I am finding that the terms differed and that some
children remained indentured until age 21.
2. Could you give me the date/location/source of the photo
Have you read Margaret Humphreys' book "Empty Cradles"? While more applicable to the
child migration programs to Australia, it does touch on the Canadian programs.
Many thanks for your time.
... Liane Kennedy
Good morning, Ms. Kennedy:
Thanks for your e-mail.
The photo comes from the Library and Archives, Canada, web site. It is located at
I've just added the credit for this photo (above) to my page.
I don't know if the age 18 appears in the book by Joy Parr or is from my notes taken in a
lecture at Carleton in 2004. It's interesting that you have found some children who remained
indentured until age 21. Maybe at the time of placement in Canada the term of indenture was
negotiable in some cases.
Is it OK with you if I add your e-mail to our web page at www.bytown.net/homekids.htm as
a contact for other researchers? Please let me know.
... Al Lewis
February 25, 2010:
Source: Ottawa Citizen, February 24, 2010:
Headline of an article regarding the British apology to
British Home Children and their descendants
There is a memorial plaque dedicated to Home Children in the Ottawa area on Wellington Street in Hintonburg in front of
Holy Rosary Church, which was the site of St. George's Home, the place from which home children were allocated to their
new homes in Canada. St. George's Home was located at 1153 Wellington Steet here in Ottawa.
Here is another article which appeared in the Citizen last week:
Britain to apologize to 'home children'
© Copyright (c) The Regina Leader-Post
By Marian Scott, Canwest News Service February 24, 2010
On Oct. 5, 1875, six-year-old Fred Fowler stepped off a steamship in Quebec City with a small wooden trunk containing all of his earthly belongings.
Little did Fred know that he would never see his native England again.
Over the next 75 years, Fred would become a child labourer on a farm, be adopted, marry and father 11 children, 33 grandchildren and more than 100 great-grandchildren.
But for the moment, all he felt was fear and loneliness.
The memory of arriving in a strange land, where the priest who came to meet him and six other homeless boys at the ship spoke only French, would stay with him forever.
Canada has 100,000 stories like Fred's -- some happy, many sad and a great number that will always remain shrouded in mystery.
They are part of the saga of the so-called home children -- tens of thousands of penniless children sent to Canada from 1869 to 1939 to make new lives for themselves.
It is estimated than more than one Canadian in 10 traces his or her ancestry to home children who laboured as farm hands and servants in the young dominion.
Today, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will apologize on his country's behalf for shipping out 150,000 home children to lives of servitude in Commonwealth countries.
But in Canada -- which received the lion's share of the youngsters -- many of their descendants say no apology is necessary.
"This was the golden bridge to Canada," says Cecilia Karwowski, 75, Fred Fowler's granddaughter.
"My grandfather would say, 'I've been a very fortunate man.' He did think he was very fortunate."
In the 1860s, evangelical reformers like Annie Macpherson, who volunteered among the poor in London's East End, conceived the idea of sending
impoverished children to Canada. Apprenticeships on farms and in respectable homes would provide an alternative to living in slums where
the life expectancy was about 35, she reasoned.
Charitable organizations like the Barnardo Homes and the Salvation Army soon joined the movement to ship poor children off to Canada.
While the children were called orphans, two-thirds had parents, most simply too poor to keep them. Most were between age nine and 14 but
some were much younger.
Of at least 100,000 home children sent to Canada, some 70,000 went to Ontario and 12,000 to Quebec. The children were bound by contract to
work for their room and board until age 18.
Critics say the lack of oversight made the children easy targets for abuse and that they were exploited as cheap labour.
A backlash orchestrated by trade unions branded the children as unwanted guttersnipes, and the stigma lingered.
However, advocates for home children note that most did well for themselves and had better lives than they would have in
Industrial Revolution-era Britain.
Conditions for the orphans ran the gamut from atrocious to ideal, said John Sayers, a volunteer at the
British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa, who has researched the stories of many home children.
"I figure five per cent had a hard time," he said. Those include George Green, a 15-year-old who died near Owen Sound, Ont.,
in 1895, apparently of beatings and starvation. His employer was acquitted of manslaughter.
Suicide was not uncommon among home children, said Sayers, 72, a retired flight-simulator technician in the armed forces.
"The girls had the hardest time of it, in my view," he said. "Many of the girls were between 12 and 17 and a lot of those girls were molested."
In those cases, the girl invariably took the blame.
For most of the children, separation from family was hardest to bear.
"The big thing was loneliness, the terrible loneliness," Sayers said. "Why was he sent here? Why was he taken away from his family?
This seemed to be a theme with a lot of them."
Brown's apology follows one by Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd to children held in orphanages before 1970.
But Canada has refused to apologize to its home children.
David Lorente, 81, a retired high school teacher from Renfrew, Ont., who founded Home Children Canada, doesn't think it needs to.
Lorente will be on hand in London on today with other home children and their descendants from Commonwealth countries to hear Brown's apology.
"If you know social history, you can see they were well-intentioned people who were trying to do something for them," he said.
Lorente's father, Joseph Arthur Lorente, worked on farms in northern Ontario and the Ottawa area after arriving in 1914 at 15.
He ran away after a farmer attacked him with a pitchfork.
"The second placement was heaven on earth," Lorente said.
Lorente organized several reunions for home children, of which the last was held in 2001.
"They were proud and happy that they overcame hardship," he said. Only a few home children are still alive today, he said.
Please sir, may I have some more?
... Oliver Twist
February 26, 2010:
The following table is the beginning of a list of British Home Children and a contact
for persons who are researching them. E-mail me if you would like to add a name ... Al
Ottawa area British Home Children
||Name of Home Child ||Details and Research Contact
||Edgar Gerard BOX
||arrived 1913 in Quebec City, then to Peel, Bruce and Huron Counties in Ontario, Contact Julie Brick
||arrived 1922 in Belleville, Ontario, sent to Osgoode Village, Osgoode Township
||arrived 1891 in Brockville, ON, aged 5, from the Isle of Man, to Redman family of Athens, ON, Contact Eileen Korponay
||arrived 1920, age 7 on ship Victorian, Contact Claire Lanthier
||arrived 1901, aged 11, on ship Parisien, Married Dorothy Collier, died 1960, Contact Al Lewis|
||arrived 1884, on ship Sardinian, Married John Fitzpatrick, died 1937, Contact Ken Armstrong|
||arrived 1899, on ship Gallia, Married Margaret Burns, Contact Melody and Al|
||arrived 1885, on ship Sarmatian, Came to Almonte, Ontario then to Saskatchewan. Contact Elinor Hinds|
||arrived 1890, on ship Sardinian, Came to Durham County West, died 1932 in Toronto. Contact Tammy Thornton|
||John Joseph KELLY
||arrived 1926 came to Ottawa, married in Havelock, Ontario, died April 1974. Contact Ruth Stedall|
||Herbert Frank LOCK / LOCKE
||arrived 1923 in Ottawa on ship SS Montcalm, contact Lorna
||arrived 1874 in Belleville on ship SS Prissian, contact Heather Storms
|| Edward SEERY
||arrived 1909 in Ottawa on ship SS Corsican, contact Geraldine
||Alice and Robert WARNE
||born in Chelsea, England, left for Canada in 1887, contact Kaz
March 3, 2010:
Thanks to John for sending along the following article from the Glasgow Herald.
The article shows a different perspective - a British one - regarding a Quarrier Home in Scotland.
Source: Glasgow Herald, October 7, 1989
Read the Complete article
March 4, 2010:
Here is a photo of one of the memorials for the Home Children in Ottawa
Source: Ottawa Citizen, August 11, 2006
July 22, 2010:
Thanks to Gaelynn Wall for the following information!
I’ve been searching Google free books for genealogy information and came across one your viewers may want to check out.
Starting on page 175 is a list of Pauper Children sent to Canada in 1888. It lists the child’s name and age,
where they were from, and who they were sent to including the province, township, lot and concession.
I searched this book for Bytown and didn’t find anything. But searching Ottawa brings up 4 children. Carleton brings up 3.
... Gaelynn Wall
Holy cow! If you enter "Ontario" as the search term in this book, (a report submitted to the British Parliament in 1889),
the search engine returns the names of MANY home children placed in our region, along with place of origin in Britain,
name and lot number of the sponsoring family and the conditions existing in the home. Most of the children went to
"wealthy farmers" and were treated very well. Here's an example:
Names of Children and Foster Families:
Patrick Kennedy -- Peter O'Toole, Cumberland
Patrick Ryan -- Patrick O'Rourke, Bowesville (originally settled down the road in Osgooge Township
Henry Edmy -- James McEvoy
James Ellicott / Ellicot -- Daniel Driscoll,
Richard Phillips -- Joseph Quinlan
E.H. Neale -- Martin Howe, North Gower
September 10, 2010
Photo source: Ottawa Citizen, September 9, 2010, page A4
October 5, 2010:
Thanks to Taylor Kennedy who has sent in the following article by Christina Blizzard of the Toronto Sun:
Saw this in the paper last week and remembered you had something on Home Children. The nice thing here is the date and
location of a home that was used to house some of them and thought it may help some looking for guidance. T
hey may have the names of people in the picture, so I scanned it and am sending it onto you.
December 12, 2010:
Taylor Kennedy has transcribed an 1892 list of Home Children who came to Belleville and Toronto in 1892 on the S.S. Sarnia
March 10, 2011:
Source: University of Waterloo, Barnardo Home Children
Thanks to Taylor Kennedy who is doing a lot of research in the records of England. He's very familiar with
record sources in England and can find a lot of material quickly.
I'm indebted to Taylor for researching the English Census, Passenger Lists, and a lot of other records regarding
my Grandfather, Edward Lewis, who came to Ottawa, Canada, from the slums of east London in 1901.
Taylor's research is at www.bytown.net/lewisedward.htm.
April 15, 2011:
On behalf of MPP Jim Brownell, I would like to pass on a message regarding his Private Member’s Bill, British Home Child Day Act.
Please find a message from Mr. Brownell below.
"Good news to all British Home Child descendants and friends!
After two attempts to bring a British Home Child Day Act to fruition in the Legislature of Ontario, I am making one last attempt
to accomplish this, before my retirement as the Member of Provincial Parliament for the Riding of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.
With 2010 having been the national "Year of the Home Children", I had hoped that my Private Members' Bill would have been passed
before the end of last year. Unfortunately, the official opposition would not cause this to happen, so I'm following another route
in order to have an official day for recognition of the British Home Children in Ontario, September 28th.
On Thursday, May 19th, through the kindness of MPP Monte Kwinter, I will have a chance to re-introduce my British Home Child Day bill,
and to have it passed through Second and Third Readings. MPP Kwinter gave up his 15th spot in Private Members' business, so that
I could re-introduce my bill.
As you may know, my previous bills have either died or stalled in the Justice Committee. This time, I will have the bill co-sponsored,
with PC MPP Steve Clark and NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo agreeing to be co-sponsors. I'll be moving Second and Third Reading on that day,
and then it will require Royal Assent, a formality from the Lieutenant-Governor's office. The bill will not be referred to the
I look forward to the day that we will have an official day in Ontario to recognize our Home Child ancestors who contributed so much
to the development of our province, with little or no recognition. This is our opportunity to honour and celebrate their legacy!
Christine Shaver, my Legislative Assistant is taking the lead on this project, and she may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the riding, I have asked my new Constituency Assistant, Alex de Wit to assist with my latest quest.
His email is email@example.com.
Jim Brownell, MPP"
April 17, 2011:
Check out the following site. Gives a great description on the process of children being shipped out.
April 19, 2011:
Home Children from Scotland to Canada
Here is a link to an exhibit about the Home children from Scotland.
"The Golden Bridge" - child migratation from Scotland to Canada.
This has a lot of great information about the Quarrier homes. There are pictures, and all the annual reports etc.
The reports also show groups of children sent over each year.
Thanks for this. By the 1860's the settlement in Glengarry County, east of Ottawa, was a well-established Scottish area.
I think that a lot of the Scottish Home Children were sent to Glengarry.
April 29, 2011:
I understand that a lot of the land was settled by the Scots in the region due to the UEL settlers.
Many of the men of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of New York were settled in the area.
A number of these soldiers had faught in Lunenburg and Quebec. They had been granted land in New York upon
discharge but remained loyal to the crown. Some lost thousands of acres of land and were granted 100 -200
acres, depending on rank, around Johnstown (Cornwall) and region.
April 30, 2011:
We have a new Home Child today - Herbert Frank LOCK / LOCKE who came to St. George's Home in Ottawa in 1923.
May 14, 2011:
When trying to locate the ship on which our home child ancestor travelled to Canada, we need to
be careful that we get the correct picture of the correct ship. We have a new web page today which helps sort out
the different ships, from different time periods, but which have the same ship's name.
See www.bytown.net/homekidsships.htm for an example using the S.S. Sicilian - the 1948 version versus the 1905 version.
June 28, 2011:
Tammy Thornton is researching Louisa Hinson who came to Durham West in 1890 as part of a group led by Miss Frye.
July 5, 2011:
In May of 2011, a group of us was invited to Queen's Park to see the passing of a bill introduced into the legislature
by MPP Jim Brownell. The new legislation was a private member's bill creating an official day for recognition of the
British Home Children in Ontario. The day will occur on September 28th of each year.
After the debate concerning the bill, we all went to the Prince Arthur British Pub, and sampled the hospitality of
Mr. Brownell who will retire from the Ontario Legislature before the upcoming provincial election in October.
Thanks to Mr. Brownell for all his work regarding the British Home Children and for all his years of service to the
constituents of the Riding of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.
Here is a photo of three descendants of British Home Children. The photo was taken by Taylor Kennedy.
L to R: Jim Brownell, Cheryl Kennedy and Allan Lewis
July 29, 2011:
Heather Storms is researching her Grandfather, David Scott, who came to Belleville, Ontario, in 1874.
August 25, 2011:
Please find a Press Release from Chairperson Carol Goddard and MPP Jim Brownell, for British Home Child Day at Upper Canada Village
on September 28th, 2011.
Press Release -
The first ever British Home Child Day to be held at Upper Canada Village on Sept. 28, 2011
The “British Home Child Day Act” or Bill 185 received Royal Assent on June 1, 2011. Under this Private Members' Bill,
September 28 of each year is now designated as “British Home Child Day” in Ontario. From the 1860’s to the 1930’s over 100,000
children between infancy and 19 years were brought to Canada by various charitable institutions in hopes of securing a better
life for these underprivileged boys and girls.
A group of volunteers, dedicated to recognizing and honouring the contribution of British Home Children to Ontario and Canada,
are working with officials at the St. Lawrence Parks Commission in order to commemorate the first British Home Child Day on
September 28 at Upper Canada Village. Plans include the dedication of a maple tree at the Aultsville Station, donated by
MPP Jim Brownell, a sponsor of Bill 185 and Home Child descendant; displays from various Home Children organizations;
an opportunity for friends and descendants to tell the story of their home child; and a specially planned British Home Child Tour
of Upper Canada Village. The “Just Kidding” theatre group from Metcalfe will perform a sampling of their upcoming production
based on a Home Child story, and throughout the day musicians will entertain guests. The day ends with a catered dinner at the
Village’s Willard’s Hotel, with the purchase of advance tickets required.
For more information please consult www.uppercanadavillage.com by the beginning of September or e-mail Carolyn Goddard
“Over 100,000 British Home Children came to our country to work in the homes and on the farms of Canadians. Overcoming incredible
hardships, these children became contributing members of society. On September 28th, British Home Child Day in Ontario,
we will have an opportunity to hear their stories and recognize the contributions they have made.”
Carolyn Goddard, Chairperson
British Home Child Day Committee, SD&G (Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry)
“Canada’s British home children are a part of our country’s history. They are a part of our heritage. They represent a part of
our past and their descendants represent a part of our future. Their stories are ones that need to be taught in our
schools and celebrated on Ontario’s British Home Child Day, September 28th.”
Jim Brownell, MPP
November 25, 2011:
At the recent monthly meeting of the Ottawa Branch of the Genealogical Society, Sandra Joyce gave an interesting
presentation regarding her recently-published book The Street Arab - The Story of a British Home Child.
Her dad was a Quarrier Home Child who came to Brockville, Ontario from Scotland. The book is very informative about the
conditions and processes faced by home children in their "home Country" and the adaptations the children made
to adjust from a poverty-stricken urban environment in the old country to an agricultural environment in
A very good book for those interested in the British Home Children.
Available from Sandra's Web Site, www.sandrajoyce.com.
2011, ISBN 978-0-9877640-0-2, Welldone Publishing in Toronto, Ontario
January 16, 2012:
There is a very interesting article in The Calgary Herald regarding child adoption and placement in Spain.
This points out the very similar experiences which the British Home Children and their descendants went through.
Well worth the read! And the BBC has created a documentary detailing the roles played by the churches and the state
in handling these 300,000 children. Coming to CBC in Canada?
September 18, 2012:
Don Cherry, from Kingston, Ontario, is a British Home Child descendant. See his video at http://www.cbc.ca/player/Shows/ID/2280297370/
September 21, 2012:
The Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society has a very good collection of material available for research at their library
at 100 Tallwood Drive corner of Woodroffe. Here are what popped up when I did a search for "Home Children" in their library catalogue:
Heritage Renfrew, Opeongo Lines Researchers Kit on Home Children sent to Canada between 1869 and the mid-1930's
920 HAR The Home Children : Their Personal Stories Phyllis Harrison, (edited by)
362.7 WES Westminster List of Home Children
305.23 BEA Lost Children of the Empire, by Phillip Bean & Joy Melville
November 16, 2012:
I found your names on The British Home Child site. Orangeville Music Theatre is producing a show entitled Homechild The Musical written by
Barb Perkins a Homechild Decendant. I thought perhaps you could share info on the page and perhaps also with Homechild Decendants
that you may have in your database. Please let me know. I have attached a poster as well.
Amanda Laughlin, Orangeville Music Theatre.
HOMECHILD~The Musical, is a highly emotional, musical tribute to the British Homechildren and their descendants, who today make
up 12% of the Canadian population. There are millions of descendants worldwide, and there will be many in the audience
in January, as this show tells the story of their beloved ancestors.
The granddaughter of a Homechild, Playwright/Composer, Barb Perkins from Erin, travelled to Wales to research the story
of the CHILD EMIGRATION MOVEMENT. This chapter of Canadian history has been quietly ignored in British and Canadian history
texts until recently. Between 1860 and the 1930’s a number of schemes were devised to ease social and economic problems
in Britain. Agencies sent hundreds of thousands of children to the colonies at this time in an attempt to populate the
colonies with “good white British stock”, while at the same time providing them with a young workforce. The agencies
that set up the Child Emigration Movement did so on the assumption that poor or orphaned children would have a better
life in a new land, but often it was a life of unremitting hardship and abuse.
This (family friendly) musical was workshopped at The Charlottetown Festival in P.E.I. and has since been extremely well
received with standing ovations from sold-out audiences in Erin, Oakville and Ottawa. In conjunction with the show dates,
Orangeville Library will be presenting a display of the Homechild memorabilia including trunks and memorial quilts,
as well as available books, etc. on the subject.
ORANGEVILLE MUSIC THEATRE PRESENTS
By: Barb Perkins Directed by Raeburn Ferguson
Music Director: Pam Claridge
Choreographer: Mariah Abbott
Costumes: Andrew Cleveland
TOWN HALL OPERA HOUSE
87 BROADWAY, ORANGEVILLE
JANUARY 12-26 2013
“HOMECHILD~The Musical” SHOW DATES:
Jan.12,18,19,25,26 (@ 8 p.m.)
Jan. 13 and 20 (@ 2p.m.)
Child 12 & under $15.00
(Plus Box Office Fee)
BOX OFFICE :519-942-3423 Or Online At: www.orangevillemusictheatre.com
March 17, 2013:
Note: The following notice appeared yesterday on the British Home Children Mailing List at rootsweb.com
Breaking the Silence--British Home Children in Canada
Saturday April 6 2013 at the Main Library in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Over 120,000 impoverished children came to Canada as indentured servants
from the British Isles between the 1860's and the 1940's.
Only now are many Canadians learning that a family member was a Home Child.
Ontario East British Home Child Family, the British
Home Children Advocacy & Research Association and others will present
information and provide assistance in finding their stories.
Join us in giving these children a voice and a place in Canadian history.
Speakers are John Sayers, Lori Oschefski, Gloria Tubman, Sandra Joyce and
Ottawa Public Library, Main Library, 120 Metcalfe Street
Mezzanine and Auditorium
Saturday April 6, 1:00-4:30 p.m.
Register (613) 580-2940
April 13, 2013:
New Orpington Place (Later called St. George's Home)
for British Home Children in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Photo Source: The Home Children: Their Personal Stories, edited by Phyllis Harrison, 1979,
Watson and Dwyer Publishing, Ltd., Winnipeg, Manitoba,ISBN 0-920486-04-5, page 65.
While it is true that many of the children who arrived at St. George's in Ottawa were placed in Quebec, they were usually placed
with English speaking Irish Catholic families in the Gatineau Valley or in Pontiac County. Few were sent to French-speaking families in Quebec.
There were many Irish settlements on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River which received these children - Jockvale in Nepean Township,
South Gloucester, Goulbourn Township to name a few. Some of the Catholic children became Anglicans through marriage.
For example, my Grandfather, Edward John Lewis.
E-mail Liane Kennedy, Gaelynn Wall, Taylor Kennedy, John and Al Lewis
Back to Bytown or Bust - History and Genealogy in the Ottawa area