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 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 holds passenger lists from 1865 to 1935 (RG 76). These lists constitute the official record of immigration to Canada and are arranged by date and port of arrival. They were consulted to find names of Home Children. Most of the lists have been digitized and can be viewed online through our Passenger Lists 1865-1922 database.
In cases where a passenger list was not available or the passenger list was partly or completely illegible, the following sources were also consulted:
- Manifest indexes (RG 76 C2)
Transcripts created by the former Immigration Branch in which the names on each passenger list were grouped alphabetically for that ship. They rarely contain more than the name and age of each passenger. These lists are arranged by date of arrival, regardless of port. They cover the years 1906 to 1920 and appear on microfilm reels T-521 to T-529, T-5520 to T-5569, and T-16185 to T-16191.
- Immigration Branch, Central Registry Files (RG 76 B1a)
These files include correspondence between the Immigration Branch and various sending organizations. They include annual reports, information booklets and some lists of the names of children sent to Canada. They cover the years 1892 to approximately 1946 and appear on microfilm reels: C-4655 to C-4800, C-7298 to C-7869, C-10233 to C-10327, C-10397 to C-10448, and C-10577 to C-10687. To obtain a volume and file number for those references, please consult our database for Archives Search – Advanced. Enter rg76 as Archival ref. number and use the name of the sending organization as a keyword, for example Barnardo$.
- Department of Agriculture, Central Registry Files (RG 17)
Prior to 1892, the Immigration Branch was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. The Central Registry files include some correspondence between the Immigration Branch and various sending organizations. The records rarely contain names of children. To obtain a volume and file (docket) number, please consult our database for Archives Search – Advanced. Enter rg17 as Archival ref. number and use the name of the sending organization as a keyword, for example Barnardo$. Note that these records are not available on microfilm.
- U.S. passenger lists
Some children arrived at American ports and are recorded on passenger lists not held by Library and Archives Canada. In those cases, the American passenger lists held by the National Archives in Washington, D.C. were consulted. They are available on microfilm through the LDS Family History Library™. They are identified in the index with LDS reel numbers.
- Records held by of other institutions
When a reference is provided to documents held by another institution, such as the Colonel Lawrie's Papers at the provincial archives of Nova Scotia, you must contact the specified office for information about those records.
The database provides access to 129,745 references to Home Children listed in immigration records held at Library and Archives.
The content of the database entries reflects the original language used in the documents. This information was not translated.
Important note: Given that some of the original documents are very difficult to read, some information in the database may be incorrect and/or incomplete.
The search screen enables you to search by:
- Given Name(s)
- Ship Name(s)
- Year of Arrival
You can enter optional terms in the Keyword field, such as the destination or sending organization, for example Brockville or Middlemore.
Note that some entries include only an initial for the given names. Try searching by surname only.
You can narrow your search by including additional search terms, but keep in mind that if your request is too specific you may rule out possibilities of which you are unaware. For example, the child may have been sent by a different organization than the one you believe, or he/she may have arrived in a different year.
Note that the name of the sending organization might not appear in the passenger list.
The code enables you to find children that travelled together. You will obtain the relevant code in the item page for each child.
When you have entered your search terms, click on "Submit". The number of hits found will be shown at the top of the results screen.
How to Interpret the Results
Your search results will be posted as a results summary list from which you will be able to obtain more detailed descriptions.
Search Results Page
The search results page displays the following fields:
- Item Number
- Given Name(s)
- Year of Arrival
Click on the underlined item number of a child to access the Item page, which contains additional information specific to that child.
The item page contains the following fields:
- Surname: The child’s surname as recorded on the document.
- Given Name(s): The child’s given name as recorded on the document.
- Age: The child’s age at the time of arrival.
- Gender: Male or female.
- Ship: The name of the ship on which the child arrived. Note that SS is the abbreviation for steamship, i.e. SS SIBERIAN.
- Year of Arrival: Year of arrival in Canada.
- Departure Port: Port from which the ship sailed.
- Departure Date: Date on which the ship sailed.
- Arrival Port: Port in Canada in which the ship landed. Note that some ships arrived at American ports and the children traveled from there to their Canadian destination by train
- Arrival Date: Date on which the ship landed.
- Party: Name of the organization or home which sent the child or with whom he or she traveled. Some smaller homes sent children with groups from larger organizations.
- Destination: Destination of that group of children, for example Brockville, where the Quarrier home was located. The passenger lists did not record each child's final destination, which was determined by the distribution home after their arrival.
- Comments: Notes recorded on the original passenger list or by the researcher regarding the entry. For example "Children listed as from Birmingham, England."
- Notes: The indexers have noted when details relevant to a particular child were illegible or difficult to decipher, for example name or age. The indexers leave the field blank or interpret it to the best of their ability.
- Children travelling together: A code was assigned to each group of children travelling together. By returning to the search screen and entering the value in the code field, you will obtain on the results page, all the names of the children travelling together.
- Type of Records: passenger lists or other immigration records.
- Source: Name of the organization where records are held.
- Reference: Reference for this entry, both Library and Archives Canada reference or for another institution.
- Microfilm: The microfilm reel on which the list appears.
- Item Number: Unique number assigned to each entry of the database.
To suggest a correction, click on the Suggest a Correction link to access an electronic form.
To return to the Search Results page, click on the Back button of your browser in the upper left corner of your screen.
How to Obtain Copies
How to Access Library and Archives Canada Records
Note that most of our passenger lists have been digitized and are available online. Use our Passenger Lists 1865-1922 database to view the passenger list of interest to you. You can make a search by ship name, date and port of departure or date and port of arrival.
Library and Archives Canada gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa and its volunteers, without which this project would not have been possible.
To read more about Home Children, you may wish to visit the Young Immigrants to Canada Web site. There you will find information about homes and organizations, reunions, titles of books on the subject and some lists of children's names.
Other archival records exist for Home Children. Consult Home Children for more information about these records.