According to the House of Commons Child Migrants Trust Report 1999, it is estimated that approximately 150,000 children were dispatched to the colonies over a period of 350 years with the earliest recorded child migrants leaving Britain in 1618 for Virginia USA. Over 100,000 of these youngsters ended up in Canada.
While researching my own family history, I accidentally discovered that one of my distantly related ancestors Elizabeth Griffin was a Child Migrant. My family had been completely unaware of her existence even though my great great grandparents raised her brother Dennis from the age of 9.
She was sent overseas in 1901 by a Northern Workhouse to Canada along with a group of other local children.
It is known that a significant number of these children came from the Liverpool area as a home called the Liverpool Sheltering Home was based in Liverpool so there is very real possibility that there may be one in your family tree.
There still may be descendants of these children’s families living in the United Kingdom and further afield
With a little bit of determined research and plenty of patience, some of you may also discover that you have connections to families around the world.
I am saddened to see that there are still very many known ‘home children’ who do not appear to have been ‘claimed’. Of course their descendents are often unaware of their existence as I was but for those of your readers researching their family history, who have found that the trail of a young ancestor has ‘gone cold’ between the years of public census, it may be that they had not simply died but that they were one of these many children.
A child did not have to have been an orphan or deserted for them to have been sent overseas. There have been times in the past when social conditions in Britain were tough and families found themselves in difficulties for all sorts of reasons. Some had to turn to one of the many organizations such as Barnardos for help. Sometimes it was part of the agreement of a child’s admission to a home that their parents/guardians had to consent to their children being ‘emigrated’ if the organization thought fit.
It is also worth knowing that a few did manage to return home again so that they do not appear to have left in the first place. Some young men enlisted in the Army during WW1 and WW2 as a way of trying to return home, others simply waited until they reached adulthood and were able to save up for the passage home. Many however were completely unaware of their origins or had lost touch with their families. Some simply never had the opportunity to return to the UK because of poverty, illness or death.
Despite the very many sad stories that have come to light over the years there have also been many successes and some children were fortunate to be taken on by considerate employers or found themselves in loving homes and went on to have families of their own. However their lives turned out to be, happy or sad, they all deserve to be remembered and yet this still seems to be a period in our history that has been shamefully neglected and forgotten.
My personal aim is to try to unite descendants with their ‘home child’. To this end, if any of you think that there is a possibility that you might be connected to one of these child migrants, I would like to recommend as a starting point a couple of very good websites devoted to this very topic:
We are trying to build a comprehensive index on www.britishhomechildren.org of all children sent overseas so even if you do not have a child migrant in your family please help raise awareness of the scheme by visiting the sites and reading about the scheme.
If you do know that you have a child migrant in your family please consider registering them on the above site.
If you have any questions about the schemes please feel free to contact me and I will endeaviour to answer if I can or find out the answer.
Thank you so much for reading this