Between 1869 and the late 1930s, over 100,000 juvenile migrants were sent to Canada from the British Isles during the child emigration movement. Motivated by social and economic forces, churches and philanthropic organizations sent orphaned, abandoned and pauper children to Canada. Many believed that these children would have a better chance for a healthy, moral life in rural Canada, where families welcomed them as a source of cheap farm labour and domestic help.
After arriving by ship, the children were sent to distributing and receiving homes, such as Fairknowe in Brockville, and then sent on to farmers in the area. Although many of the children were poorly treated and abused, others experienced a better life here than if they had remained in the urban slums of England. Many served with the Canadian and British Forces during both World Wars
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds unique and extensive records about British Home Children, such as passenger lists, Immigration Branch correspondence files and inspection reports, non-government collections such as the Middlemore Home fonds, as well as indexes to some records held in the United Kingdom. The records also include names of older boys and girls who were recruited by immigration agents in the U.K. for farming and domestic work in Canada. Please note that most documents have been created in English. Members of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) and other volunteers are indexing the names of juvenile migrants found in these records.
- Children of the State by Florence Davenport Hill, 1889.
- Pauper children (Canada): return to an order of the Honourable the House of Commons, dated 8 February 1875, for copy of a report to the Right Honourable the president of the Local Government Board, by Andrew Doyle, Esquire, local government inspector, as to the emigration of pauper children to Canada [PDF, 12.91 MB]
- The children's home-finder; the story of Annie MacPherson and Louisa Birt, by Lilian M. Birt, 1913. (AMICUS 8839837)
- The Golden Bridge: Young Immigrants to Canada, 1833-1939, by Marjorie Kohli, 2003. (AMICUS 28334219)
- The Little Immigrants: the Orphans Who Came to Canada (new edition), by Kenneth Bagnell, 2001. (AMICUS 20430829)
- Uprooted: The Shipment of Poor Children to Canada, 1867-1917, by R. A. Parker, 2010. (AMICUS 33716306)
Research Aids at LAC
Department of Agriculture, Central Registry Files (RG 17) (R194-40-3-E) (MIKAN 156172)
Before 1892, immigration operations were under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. The Central Registry files include correspondence between the Immigration Branch and various sending organizations. Files that include lists of names have been indexed in our Home Children Records database.
Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files (RG76 B1a) (R1206-126-2-E) (MIKAN 134829)
These files contain correspondence from and to various sending organizations. They often include annual reports, information booklets and some lists of names of children. The files cover the years from 1892 to approximately 1946. Consult our Guide to Sending Organizations and Receiving Homes for relevant references and information about how to access those records.
Juvenile Inspection Reports (RG76 C4c) (R1206-158-4-E) (MIKAN 161388)
Immigration officials created inspection report cards as they carried out regular inspections of children brought to Canada by various organizations. These records date from 1920 to 1932; however, there are a few from 1911 to 1917 and after 1932. There is usually one page per child, showing name, age or date of birth, year of arrival, ship, sending organization, the names and addresses of employers and final comments, e.g. "completed, gone west".
This series also includes inspection cards for some European children, including those brought to Canada by the Armenian Relief Association of Canada (1923-1932) and the Canadian Jewish War Orphans Committee (1920-1921).
The inspection reports are available on the following microfilm reels, which can be viewed on site. The records are arranged in alphabetical order, not by organization. Note that the original records have not survived and the quality of the microfilm is poor.
These reels are digitized on the free website Héritage. Enter the reel number in the search box, then click on the reel title to see the images. The contents are not searchable by name, but you can skip ahead through the images to find the relevant section of surnames.
List of Juvenile Inspections Reports
Microfilm reel number
First name on reel
Last name on reel
||ANDERSON, Newton and ABBOTT, Auber
||EVANS, Arthur E.
||EVANS, Arthur L.
||HENDERSON, Ann F.
||HENDERSON, Charles H.
||SHAW, Walter A.
External Links to Other Institutions
Besides the following websites, consult our Guide to Sending Organizations and Receiving Homes for resources in Canada and the British Isles relating to specific organizations.
For research in the United Kingdom, visit the following websites:
Ancestry (subscription required): Includes indexes and digitized records for England, including census and some church records. Ancestry is available free at many public libraries.
Familysearch: This free website includes indexes and some digitized images for many records from England, including census and some church records. Also use the Catalogue to find out what records are available on microfilm.
Former Children's Homes: Information about Cottage Homes, orphanages, and other institutions.
FreeBMD: These indexes to British birth, marriage and death records indicate the quarter of the year in which the event was registered, not the date of the event. The references also provide the registration district, volume and page number for ordering copies. The actual records are not online; they must be ordered from the General Register Office (GRO) in England.
London Metropolitan Archives: The LMA holds registers of School Admissions and Discharges, 1840-1911, for the London area. Many of those records are indexed by name and digitized on ancestry (subscription required).
The Children's Homes: Information and resources about orphanages, homes, reformatories, industrial schools, training ships, and hostels.
The National Archives: Use the Guides and the Discovery Catalogue to search for records relating to various organizations and workhouses held at the National Archives and other archives in the British Isles.
The Workhouse: Historical information about Union workhouses, schools and homes, including information about where to locate records. You can search the website by a place name or other keyword. You can also access relevant information by clicking on Workhouse Locations.
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