Annie Macpherson


Annie Macpherson was one of the first individuals involved in the emigration of children to Canada. Her years of evangelical and charity work led to her opening the Home of Industry in London, England, in 1869. There, pauper children could be fed, housed, educated and trained.

As was the case with many other organizations, there were more children than the Home could take into care, so Macpherson turned to emigration. The first party of families arrived in Canada in 1869 and the first party of children in 1870.


Marchmont was Macpherson's first receiving home, opened in Belleville, Ontario, in 1870. The home was run by Ellen Bilbrough (Bilborough) and her future husband, Rev. Robert Wallace. Annie Macpherson turned the home over to them completely in 1877. By that time, Marchmont was receiving mostly children from organizations in the English city of Manchester, such as Leonard Shaw's Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuges and Homes, Strangeways Institution, and from Scotland, such as children from Quarrier's Orphan Homes of Scotland and children from Margaret Blaikie's Emigration Home (Girls' Home) in Edinburgh.

In 1920, William Merry took over as the superintendent of Marchmont when it became the receiving home for the Liverpool Sheltering Home. Marchmont closed in 1925, having served as the receiving home for an estimated 10,000 children from many small and large organizations in England and Scotland, including Smyly's, Barnardo's, the Bristol Emigration Society and the Painswick Emigration Home (Washwell House) run by Harriett and Alice Wemyss.

Galt and Stratford Homes

Around 1871, Macpherson opened a second receiving home called Blair Athol near Galt, Ontario, which was also a training farm. It was run by Macpherson’s sister and brother-in-law, Rachel and Joseph Merry.

The farm was closed in 1882 and the operation was moved to Stratford, Ontario. Children were sent from England, Scotland and Ireland, and were placed in homes throughout Ontario.

Knowlton Home

Annie Macpherson’s third home was opened in Knowlton, Quebec, in 1872. The first superintendent was Emma Barber. In 1877, the home was turned over to Macpherson’s sister, Louisa Birt, and became the receiving home for the Liverpool Sheltering Home.

First World War and after

Emigration ceased during the First World War. Then the Macpherson operations merged with the Liverpool Sheltering Home in 1915. The Knowlton Home closed in 1916, as did the Stratford Home in 1919. Marchmont closed in 1925, when Barnardo's took over the operations of the Liverpool Sheltering Home.

An estimated 21,000 Macpherson children came to Canada between 1870 and 1925.

In this guide, see also Liverpool Sheltering Home

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Department of Agriculture: General Correspondence (RG17)

Before 1892, immigration was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. There are files relating to various sending agencies, including that of Annie Macpherson. Those records have been indexed by name in our Home Children Records database.

Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files (RG76 B1a)

This series contains correspondence between the Immigration Branch and many of the sending organizations. The files contain a variety of documents relating to the activities of the organizations, often including annual reports, lists of children's names and medical certificates. The documents within each file are arranged by date. Microfilm reels can be viewed on site.

Most of the microfilm reels in this series are digitized on the free website Héritage. Enter the reel number in the search box, e.g. C-4715. If the reel is digitized, click on the reel title to see the images. The page contents are not searchable, but you can skip ahead through the images to find the volume and file of interest, then browse through the pages in that file.

File title: Immigration of children, Robert Wallance, Marchmont, Belleville
RG76, volume 30, file 674, parts 1 to 3, 1892-1909, microfilm C-4688
RG76, volume 30, file 674, part 3, 1909-1913, microfilm C-4689

File title: McPherson Home, Emigration of Children, Stratford and Marchmont
RG76, volume 64, file 3081, parts 1 to 3, 1893-1923, microfilm C-4732
RG76, volume 64, file 3081, part 3, 1923-1925, microfilm C-4733

Juvenile Inspection Reports (RG76 C4c)

Immigration officials created inspection reports 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".

The inspection reports are available on the following microfilm reels, which can be viewed on site. They are also digitized on Héritage, as explained in the section above. Note that the original records have not survived and the quality of the microfilm is poor. The records are arranged in alphabetical order, not by organization.


Microfilm Reel Number First Name on Reel Last Name on Reel
​T-15420 ​A ​CARDNO, Leslie
​T-15421 ​CARDWELL, Andrew ​EVANS, Arthur E.
​T-15422 ​EVANS, Arthur L. ​HENDERSON, Ann F.
​T-15423 ​HENDERSON, Charles H. ​LOCK, Annie
​T-15424 ​LOCK, Herbert ​O'BRIEN, Samuel
​T-15425 ​O'BRIEN, Thomas ​SHAW, Victor
​T-15426 ​SHAW, Walter A. ​WEALE, Walter
​T-15427 ​WEALLS, Eric ​ZYCZYNSKI, Leon

Research in Other Institutions

Barnardo's Making Connections

Annie Macpherson's operations were taken over by the Barnardo's Homes in 1925. Records are in the custody of Barnardo's Making Connections office. For information about records in their archives, fees and access conditions, you should contact Barnardo's Family History Service.

Library and Archives Canada holds microfilm copies of some of the Barnardo's records, which include the records of Annie Macpherson's Homes during the years 1870-1915 (MG28 I334). However, those records are restricted by Barnardo's, so researchers must contact that organization to obtain copies from the records.

Belleville Public Library

The Belleville Public Library holds some local files and other material relating to the Marchmont Home. There is a link to their guide on their Genealogy page.

Together Trust

Together Trust holds records of the children taken into care in the homes and training schools run by the Manchester and Salford Boys and Girls Refuges and Homes, 1870-1920. Over 2,000 of those children were emigrated to Canada through the Marchmont Home.

On the Together Trust website, click on Who We Are, then Our History to find out more about the organization and its emigration program, including a list of the homes run by that organization. Click on Your Family History to find out how to request information.

Research Online

The following websites include transcripts of various lists and also some letters written by Marchmont children:

Published Sources

  • The golden bridge: young immigrants to Canada, 1833-1939 by Marjorie Kohli, pages 86-104; 112-119. (AMICUS 28334219)

  • Uprooted: the shipment of poor children to Canada, 1867-1917 by Roy Parker. (AMICUS 33716306)

  • The children's home-finder: the story of Annie MacPherson and Louisa Birt by Lilian M. Birt. (AMICUS 8839837)

  • Marchmont: distributing home, Belleville, Ontario, 1870-1925 by James S. Gilchrist. (AMICUS 28094309)

Other Resources

See our Home Children 1869-1932 page for links to other research sources, websites and institutions in Canada and the United Kingdom.

Date modified: