James W.C. Fegan started working with London street boys in 1870 and opened a Boys' Home in Deptford in 1872. Over the following years, he opened more homes, missions, orphanages, schools and training farms in London and elsewhere in England, including Ramsgate, Stony Stratford, Southwark and Goudhurst.
Fegan started sending older Protestant boys to Canada in 1884. He opened a home in Brandon, Manitoba, and the Colonial Distributing Home, later called Fegan's Distributing Home, in Toronto. Most of the boys were placed on farms in central and western Ontario.
An estimated 3,200 Fegan boys came to Canada between 1884 and 1915, and from the end of the First World War until 1939, when emigration operations ended.
Research at Library and Archives Canada
Records of the Fegan Distributing Home in Toronto, Ontario, 1885-1931, 1937-1939
The Fegan Home in Toronto maintained registers of the boys sent to Canada. Those registers are held privately, but microfilm copies are available at Library and Archives Canada in the genealogy reference room (AMICUS 40381268). The records are indexed by name in our Home Children Records database.
Microfilm copies of the registers are also available at the Family History Library. You can view those reels at your local Family History Centre. Consult their web page on Online Film Ordering.
Volumes 1 to 3, 1885-1899, FHL microfilm 2027621
Volumes 4 to 6, 1900-1921, FHL microfilm 2027622
Volumes 7 and 8, 1922-1932, 1937-1939, FHL microfilm 2027623
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 Fegan Homes. 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: Mr. Fegan's Homes
RG76, volume 58, file 2571, part 1, 1892-1905, microfilm C-4725
RG76, volumes 58 and 59, file 2571, parts 1 to 5, 1905-1932, microfilm C-4726
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.
Research in Other Institutions
Fegans still exists today. Requests for information from their records can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The golden bridge: young immigrants to Canada, 1833-1939 by Marjorie Kohli, pages 164-168. (AMICUS 28334219)
Uprooted: the shipment of poor children to Canada, 1867-1917 by Roy Parker, pages 79-83. (AMICUS 33716306)
J.W.C. Fegan: a tribute by W.Y. Fullerton. (AMICUS 37326531)
The Fegan Homes published the following newsletters, which included letters from Fegan boys:
Christian Shield 1877-1881
The Rescue 1885-1901
Loving & Serving 1905-1912
The Red Lamp 1913-1920
Surviving copies of the newsletters have been reprinted and indexed by name in the following publications:
Fegan's homes newsletters. Volume 10: the red lamp 1913-1920 compiled by Douglas V. Fry & Fawne Stratford-Devai (AMICUS 32667771)
The J. W. C. Fegan British Home Children Newsletter Collection 1877 to 1920 (CD-ROM)
A copy is available at the Toronto Public Library or from Global Heritage Press.
See our Home Children 1869-1932 page for links to other research sources, websites and institutions in Canada and the United Kingdom.