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British Home Children


Is there a Home Child in your family?  The British Child Emigration Movement brought some 100,000 children to Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  These “waifs and strays” were sent overseas to escape the harsh realities of Industrial-era Britain. When they arrived in Canada, they were placed in foster homes, usually farms, where it was thought that fresh air, education, and hard work in the Canadian countryside would lead to healthier and better lives for them.  In some cases this was true; in others it most definitely was not.  While some home children were welcomed into their new Canadian homes with love, others were considered no more than free labour or domestic servants.  

 Today, a million Canadians can trace their ancestry to a Home Child, whether they realize it or not.  Since 2010, the Year of the British Home Child in Canada, resources for genealogical and historical research on home children have steadily increased.  If you have a "home child" ancestor, or just an interest in this overlooked chapter of Canadian history, consult the resources suggested here, or contact OPL's genealogy team.  We'd be pleased to help you research further!


British Home Children in Canadapar OttLibGenealogy

Books and websites for learning about British Home Children in Canada, and for researching Home Child ancestors.


I would also recommend the book by local Ottawa author Patricia Roberts-Pichette: Great Canadian Expectations: the Middlemore Experience (Global Heritage Press, 2016). (The library holds 4 copies.)
The book is a careful and fascinating account of the founding of the Children’s Emigration Homes of Birmingham, England by John Throgmore Middlemore and the subsequent settlement of more than five thousand children in rural communities in Ontario and the Maritime provinces between 1870 and 1933. A chapter on Birmingham in the late 19th century is also full of interest.