British Home Children


Between 1869 and the Great Depression, over 100,000 children were sent to Canada from Great Britain. The idea behind this scheme was to alleviate the number of poor and destitute children who were living in workhouses, in severe poverty or on the streets in already over crowded cities.

Parents could relinquish their children directly to the Children’s Homes. However, for families who entered the workhouses, the children were separated from their families upon admission.  These youngsters were subsequently transferred from the workhouses to Children’s Homes. Once in the Children’s Homes, the children would be “cleaned up”, fed, taught some manners, given some schooling and then they were sent to Canada to work on farms as indentured servants. The girls worked as domestic servants and the boys worked as farm labourers. The very young children (infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers) were often adopted out to families in Canada while children as young as 6 were sent to work on the farms.

Perhaps the largest and most well known of these homes were the ones run by Dr Thomas Barnardo and John T Middlmore.

While some controversy has swirled around these children and the scheme in general, in reality the vast majority of the children fared far better in Canada than they would have had they remained in the destitution they had been living in prior to their admission to the Homes.

Dr Patricia Roberts-Pichette has spent much of her career researching and understanding the children who came through the Middlemore Homes as well as the Middlemore system itself. Her recent book, Great Canadian Expectations: The Middlemore Experience  is the culmination of her work in researching the Middlemore Agency, the children who were placed through Middlemore and the descendants of Middlemore children.

Dr Roberts-Pichette will be giving three talks on British Home Children at the Great Canadian Genealogy Summit:

Finding Your Home Child Ancestor Who Settled in the Maritimes and What John T. Middlemore’s Home Children Left Behind in Birmingham, England will be presented on Saturday and The Impact of John T. Middlemore’s Decision to Settle Home Children around Fredericton, New Brunswick from 1885 to 1891 will be presented on Sunday.

To register for the CanGen summit:

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