Shipping of impoverished 'British' children to Canada 

Liverpool, England has long been called the real capital of Ireland with three quarters of the population claiming Irish descent. The influx came mostly during the 1798 rebellion as well as during and after the Great Famine of the 1850's. 300,000 starving Irish arrived in England with approximately 80,000 staying in Liverpool, mixed with the poverty the elite inflicted on their own people, 41,000 people died from various epidemics in 1866. Annie Macpherson created sheltering homes for the poor and destitute in London. After coming to speak in Liverpool a chain of events created a 'human stain' on her efforts when the 'British Home Children' program was implemented which haunts the children's descendants to this day. These, I believe, good intentions morphed into a horrendous practice that eventually forced the British, Canadian and Australian governments to make public apologies in recent years to the descendants of these children.

I recently, after 10 years of searching, acted on a hunch and discovered that my Great Grandfather Charles Garret Hayes, an Irish boy supposedly from Dublin was shipped to the Knowlton Distribution Home in Quebec Canada in 1892 at the age of 14. Bernardo's in Essex replies to all inquiries for those searching for their ancestors. They responded with a confirmation that they indeed held his records and the reason I couldn't find him anywhere (before his marriage in 1899 Quebec) was because he was listed as "C. Hughes" on the ship's list. A few names above his was 'Annie Hughes' 10 years old. Was she a Hughes or a Hayes? I sent in my application with my Mother's signature as closest relative with my 65 pounds and months later I am still waiting for my information package with his photo to arrive. They say on the many online forums that it takes a long time because they have to remove any names I am not authorized to view, and I am told, that could mean the siblings.

I have been contacted by others who know my Charles was Irish as they are searching for the whereabouts of their Irish children amongst these groups, most often the siblings.  This led me to the "Birdsnest" Sheltering Home in Dublin.  They were very accommodating and searched everything they had but could not find anything pertaining to Charles.  

I started this discussion to invite anyone else who had Irish ancestors caught up in this British Home Children scheme to 'farm out' these poor boys and place the girls in service until they were 18 years of age.  I had heard that the Irish in Dublin were very afraid of the English getting a hold of their children has anyone else found a 'British Home Child' in their family tree and what success or heart-wrenching stories have you discovered?

The following is an excerpt from the University of Waterloo's webpage (for more information click on the link ) 'Young Immigrants to Canada':

"A group of prominent Liverpool men, after hearing Annie Macpherson speak, invited her to come to their city and start a home for destitute children. A public meeting was held in November of 1872 to discuss the establishment of such a home and Annie Macpherson was invited to attend. In her place, Annie sent her sister Louisa Birt and Louisa was invited to head the institution.

The home was first opened on May 1, 1873 and was located on Byrom Street, between Gerrard and Circus Streets. By 1883 the facility was no longer large enough and so Number 1, Sugnall Street was rented as a home for girls. In 1888, the property was purchased along with the adjoining property on Myrtle Street. On November 16, 1889 the Sheltering Home on Myrtle Street (see 1891 census) was officially opened for both boys and girls.

Children were sent to Nova Scotia starting in August of 1873. These children were placed with local farmers. Some 550 children were sent to Nova Scotia between August of1873 and the end of 1876.

In 1877 Mrs. Birt took over the home her sister, Annie, had started in Knowlton, a small, remote Quebec village in the Eastern Townships. Mrs. Birt brought two parties of children a year to this home for the next 25 years."




Tags: Canada., birdsnest, british, children, dublin, genealogy, home, irish, liverpool, quebec, More…sheltering

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Here is a preview of the book "Golden Bridge: Young Immigrants to Canada, 1833-1939"

By Marjorie Kohli


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