During the mid-1800s in England, Catholic leaders turned their attention to the problem of destitute Catholic children who were not being raised in their faith. They fought to have Catholic children placed in Catholic-run institutions instead of the Protestant-dominated poor law schools. However, the gradual establishment of Catholic industrial schools, orphanages and refuge homes was not sufficient for the need and so child emigration became a part of the solution for the care of Catholic children.
There were many Catholic individuals and organizations involved with the juvenile emigration movement. Over the years, many of the organizations merged their work.
Father James Nugent of Liverpool brought the first group to Canada in 1870. They were placed with Catholic families, mostly in Quebec.
The Liverpool Catholic Children's Protection Society sent children between 1882 and 1902. Margaret Lacy (Lacey) and Elizabeth Hudson placed children in Ontario and Quebec. A few went to New Brunswick and New York State. Father John Berry's Home was also located in Liverpool.
The Canadian Catholic Emigration Committee was formed in 1874 in London and sent children from the Westminster and Southwark Dioceses. Cardinal Henry Manning was involved, but it was Reverend Thomas Seddon who usually accompanied the groups of children.
The Southwark Catholic Emigration Society began sending children in the early 1880s. One group went to Manitoba in 1882. The society established its own receiving home in 1895 in Ottawa (New Orpington Lodge, Hintonburg), which was later called St. George's Home. In 1897, the New Southwark Training Farm was opened in Makinac, Manitoba. The children were brought out by Reverend Lord Archibald Douglas and Canon Edward St. John.
The Southwark Society amalgamated with the Catholic Emigration Committee in 1893, and with the Canadian Catholic Emigration Society in 1899. In England, other groups merged under the Crusade of Rescue.
In the Manchester area, the Salford Catholic Protection and Rescue Society began sending children to Canada in 1889. Reverend Robert Rossall placed the children in homes in Quebec. After 1895, children from the Society were sent with groups from other organizations.
The Birmingham Diocesan Rescue Society for the Protection of Homeless and Friendless Catholic Children was founded in 1902 and administered by Father George Hudson. The homes in Birmingham and Coleshill became known as Father Hudson's Homes.
In 1903 and 1904, the various societies in Liverpool, Westminster, Southwark and Birmingham merged to form the Catholic Emigration Association, with Father Hudson as the secretary. It was also known as the Catholic Emigration Society, with Coleshill as the main emigration centre in England. St. George's Home in Ottawa became the main reception centre; it closed in 1934.
By 1917, an estimated 8,500 Catholic children were sent to Canada. More arrived during the 1920s, but by 1932 the program had ended.
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 many of the Catholic organizations. 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: Catholic Emigration Association / Catholic Emigration Society; Birmingham, Liverpool and St. George's Home, Ottawa
RG 76, volume 285, file 252093, part 1, 1902-1903, microfilm C-7833
(There are only two items on this reel and neither mention specific children: a newspaper clipping and a letter concerning an immigration report.)
RG 76, volumes 285 and 286, file 252093, parts 1 to 5, 1903-1924, microfilm C-7834
RG 76, volumes 286 and 287, file 252093, parts 5 to 8, 1924-1931, microfilm C-7835
RG 76, volume 287, file 252093, parts 8 and 9, 1931-1950, microfilm C-7836
RG 76, volume 285, file 252093, part Lists, 1903-1920, microfilm C-7836
File title: Canadian Catholic Emigration Society
RG76, volumes 202 and 203, file 87308, parts 1 and 2, 1899-1905, microfilm C-7356
File title: Canadian Catholic Emigration Committee, Archbishop's House, Westminster
RG76, volume 73, file 4240, 1891-1899, microfilm C-4741
File title: Liverpool Catholic Children's Protection Society
RG76, volume 65, file 3114, 1890-1902, microfilm C-4733
File title: Southwark Catholic Emigration Society (Reverend Lord A. Douglas)
RG76, volume 112, file 22578, 1895-1908, microfilm C-4775
File title: Southwark Rescue Society, London, England; Prince Albert, Saskatchewan RG76, volume 471, file 719110, 1907-1909, microfilm C-10408
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.
||EVANS, Arthur E.|
||EVANS, Arthur L.
||HENDERSON, Ann F.|
||HENDERSON, Charles H.
||SHAW, Walter A.
The genealogy reference desk at Library and Archives Canada has copies of some printed lists from various sources. Those items, which are listed below, have been indexed by name in our Home Children Records database.
List of children under 18 years old on the books of Father Berry's Home in Canada on the 31st December 1906
List of children taken into care by the West Derby Union and sent to Canada by Father Berry's Home
List of Roman Catholic Home Children (child migrants) whose records are at the Father Hudson Society Archives, Coleshill, Birmingham, United Kingdom
List of children sent by Nugent Care and other Catholic Liverpool Agencies
Emigration of poor Catholic children from the Westminster Diocese to Canada, 1874-1928
"Les orphelins d'Angleterre confiés aux Soeurs de la Charité à Rimouski" by Robert Claveau and Louiselle B.-Claveau. L'Estuaire Généalogique 1985, volume 4 (1985), no. 14, pages 261-269
Research in Other Institutions
Most of the records created by Catholic sending agencies were destroyed by the Catholic authorities in the 1950s. A few records still exist, held by the following societies.
Father Hudson's Society
The Society holds registers from 1884 and files dating from 1902 for former child migrants who had been in the care of the Birmingham Diocesan Rescue Society. For more information, see Father Hudson's Society: Former Child Migrants Archive Check.
Nugent Care only holds admittance registers for Blackbrook House, St. Helens (1902-1954), Kelton House of Providence (1897-1967) and Greenfield Orphanage, Billinge (1903-1962). For more information, see Nugent Care: Access to Records. All other Nugent Care historical records were deposited at the Liverpool Record Office.
Liverpool Record Office
The Liverpool Record Office holds records of the Catholic Emigration Society, including records relating to Father Berry's Homes, Nugent Care, St. George's Industrial School, Bishop Brown Memorial School, Liverpool Boys Refuge, St. Anne's Industrial School, Clarence Reformatory Ship, Birkdale Farm Reformatory School, St. Vincent Certified Orphanage/Industrial School, Our Lady's Home for Homeless Babies and Leyfield School. Contact the Liverpool Record Office for information about how to access the records.
Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster)
This Society holds some records about children who were former residents of their Homes. There is an application for information form on their website under Catholic Children's Society (Westminster): Post Adoption and After Care. The History page includes a timeline with some information about their homes.
Cabrini Children’s Society
This society was previously known as the Catholic Children's Society / Southwark Catholic Rescue Society / Southwark Catholic Children's Society. They hold some records of Canadian child migrants, 1887-1930. For more information, see Cabrini: Access to Records Services.
Archives of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul
From 1888 to 1891, over 570 children sent by Mrs. Lacy were received at the House of Providence in Kingston, Ontario. From there, they were placed with families in the area. The Archives of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul has an indexed register of those children. For more information, see their Home Children page.
The registers were transcribed and published by the Kingston Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society:
Home children records of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul Kingston, 1888-1899, Kingston, Ontario by Sharon Cadieux and Paul Woodrow (AMICUS 41951764)
Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph Orphanage: City of Kingston, Frontenac County, Ontario by Joyce Morrison (AMICUS 40088798)
This index from the orphanage registers includes only the names of Home Children (1883-1903).
Some records relating to Catholic child migrants to Canada are held by local Diocesan archives in England. If you know the diocese, you can use a search engine such as Google. Try keywords such as archives diocese Catholic England and the name of the diocese.
Local and county record offices usually hold the records of the poor law boards of guardians. See our Home Children 1869-1932 page for more information about poor law unions and workhouses.
See our Home Children 1869-1932 page for links to other research sources, websites and institutions in Canada and the United Kingdom.