Church of England Waifs and Strays Society


The Church of England Waifs and Strays Society was founded in 1881 by Edward and Robert Rudolf. A home was opened in London for destitute Church of England children. More homes, farm schools and industrial schools were opened over the years in other locations.

Only a small number of the Society's children were sent to Canada. In the early 1880s, a few came over with Maria Rye and Louisa Birt. In 1885, the Society opened its own receiving homes in Sherbrooke, Quebec: Gibbs' Home for girls and Benyon Home for boys. Children were placed in homes throughout the Eastern Townships. A few were sent to Manitoba in the early 1900s.

Other Church of England societies sometimes included children when bringing over adults and families, for example, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), the Church Emigration Society and the Liverpool Self-Help Emigration Society.

In 1896, the Waifs and Strays Society assumed the operation of Maria Rye's Our Western Home at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Girls were sent there and then placed in homes in western Ontario. The boys were sent to the Gibbs' Home in Sherbrooke and continued to be placed in homes in Quebec.

During the First World War, the Niagara on-the-lake Home was sold and used by the Polish Legion (Haller's Army). In 1924, the Elizabeth Rye Home in Toronto became the new receiving home for girls, where they trained for domestic service. It closed around 1934.

The Society continued to send boys over until the start of the Second World War in 1939. It is now called the Children's Society.

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 the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society. 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: Church of England Waifs and Strays Society
RG76, volumes 78 and 79, file 6648, 1893-1911, parts 1 to 5, microfilm C-4745
RG76, volumes 79 to 80, file 6648, 1911-1950, parts 5 to 11, microfilm C-4746

File title: The Elizabeth Rye Home, Toronto (Church of England Hostel), 1925-1952
RG76, volume 253, file 193596, microfilm C-7402

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 NumberFirst Name on ReelLast Name on Reel
T-15420ACARDNO, Leslie
T-15421CARDWELL, AndrewEVANS, Arthur E.
T-15422EVANS, Arthur L.HENDERSON, Ann F.
T-15423HENDERSON, Charles H.LOCK, Annie
T-15424LOCK, HerbertO'BRIEN, Samuel
T-15425O'BRIEN, ThomasSHAW, Victor
T-15426SHAW, Walter A.WEALE, Walter

Church of England Children's Society fonds (MG28 I335)

The microfilm reel A-1137 includes information about children sent to Canada:

Emigration agenda minute books 1910-1932,
Register Emigration Parties book 1925-1931,
Minute book, Elizabeth Rye Home (Toronto), 1929-1933

That reel can be viewed on site. There are other microfilm reels in this fonds, but they only contain administrative and operational correspondence, not information on individual children. There are also annual reports and other publications relating to the operation of the Society in England. The annual reports often include summaries of cases, without surnames, e.g. Hannah M. H., age 12, mother dead, father blind. Only a few of those cases relate to children who emigrated. For more information about those other records, consult the archival description (MIKAN 107247).

Boy Emigrants to Canada, 1886-1937

Library and Archives Canada has a copy of two lists of unknown origin of boys sent to the Gibbs' Home. The lists give only name, date of birth and date of sailing. The complete list is available at the genealogy reference desk. The names in the list for arrivals 1886 to 1915 are indexed in our Home Children Records database.

Research in Other Institutions

The surviving files on children sent to Canada are in the custody of the Children's Society Records and Archive Centre. For information about the records, contact their Post Adoption and Care Service.

Research Online

Published Sources

  • The golden bridge: young immigrants to Canada, 1833-1939 by Marjorie Kohli, pages 156-163. (AMICUS 28334219)
  • Uprooted: the shipment of poor children to Canada, 1867-1917 by Roy Parker, pages 83-89. (AMICUS 33716306)

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: