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Genealogy - Home Children in Canada

Updated on April 29, 2018


Between 1869 and the mid 1930s over 100,000 children were sent from Britain to Canada during the British Child Emigration Movement. Many were sent to Australia and South Africa but the greatest numbers were sent to Canada.

By 1889 The Canadian Department of Agriculture (who was responsible for immigration), recorded more than 50 agencies bringing children to Canada for farm labor.

If your ancestors are from Canada there is a good chance that you a have connection somewhere in your tree to a "Home Child".

Home children are responsible for about 4 million descendants in Canada and it is rare to find a family without a connection. Many have said in the past that Canada was "built" by home children.

If your ancestor was a home child it can create a roadblock, especially if you don’t know the circumstances on which the child was admitted. Sometimes the birthdates were wrong and the names misspelled. Sometime the wrong age was given to make the child seem older to increase the chances of them going to Canada.

The first home in Canada

The first group of Home Children arrived in Canada on May 13,1870. They were sent to the Marchmont House in Belleville Ontario. They were brought to Canada by Annie Macpherson. The home was run by Ellen Bilbrough-Wallace and the REV. Robert Wallace. The house was located at 193 West Moira Street.

Belleville's newspaper, The Intellegencer ran a nice story a few years ago on the history of Marchmont. You can read it here.

My very well read and shared copy of The Home Children by P.Harrison
My very well read and shared copy of The Home Children by P.Harrison | Source

Life as a Home Child

Many of these children were orphans but a large number were not. My grandfather and his brother were admitted to the Barnardo's home because their father had had a stroke and their mother was unable to look after them. She was told that sending them to Canada would give them a better life.

Those sent to Canada faced a long journey by ship that usually lasted about 3 weeks. Once in Canada some were welcomed with open arms to loving families but sadly a large majority were faced with hard and unhappy situations.

Most children were sent to rural Canada where life was rough and the long Canadian winters were harsh.

A book written by Phyllis Harrison in 1979 titled The Home Children is a collection of personal stories written by home children. Some of the experiences in this book are hard to read without a tissue handy as they are heart wrenching and describe sad conditions, a reality for so many of these children.

Anne of Green Gables

The best known "story" of a Home Child is that of Anne of Green Gables. Written in 1908 by Lucy Maud Montgomery, It is the story of an orphan girl who was sent to P.E.I in Canada to work on a farm. Although this story is a work of fiction it does represent in many ways what many home children experienced. The farming community of Prince Edward Island was a common destination.

Videos On Home Children

newspaper clipping from England
newspaper clipping from England | Source


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    • scooterport profile image

      James Roberts 

      17 months ago from Summerville, Georgia

      Thanks for the good info. My great-uncle was a Barnardo boy.


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