Clarington’s Home Children

So much for monthly posts!!!  But then I guess Christmas and New Years got in the way – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!!

Clarington's Home Children

In my last post I said I’d tell you about the second 150th Anniversary book I wrote, Clarington’s Home Children. It came about in an odd set of circumstances…

I had an e-mail one day from a local lady who said she’d realized this part of our local history had not been looked at, and she thought I might be just the person to do it. Of course, I knew about the Home Children, but the idea of any of them coming to this area never crossed my mind. My new contact told me she knew of quite a few people in the community who were descended from Home Children (she started doing the research for me, it seemed!!) and that they were willing to sit down and talk about their relatives. How could I turn down a project that had already been started?

Some of you may be wondering, “What on earth is a Home Child?” Let me explain…in the mid 19th century, people like Thomas Barnardo, a few church organizations, and some child welfare workers, all took in homeless children. Often these children were grabbed off the street, and some it turned out, weren’t homeless at all! Many were brought to the “homes” by parents who were going through hard times, planning on returning for their children when times got better, only to find that in the  meantime their children had been sent to Canada or Australia. It wasn’t for a few years after starting this humanitarian act, that the “homes” across Britain realized there were just too many children to care for, and so the plan to send them to the colonies to become useful citizens was hatched between the British government and the governments of Canada and Australia, and so the migration of child labourers began. That’s how the Home Children arrived in Canada.

So, armed with about a dozen names I went to town researching and it didn’t take long to realize this would be a huge project – probably a decade long…
After two years of 24/7 research I had found nearly 700 Home Children had been sent to this area (the Municipality of Clarington, which is made up of the former townships of Darlington and Clarke in the former Durham County). Of those nearly 700, I chose to highlight 38 of the most recent emigrants, mainly because their descendants or their friends were still alive and could tell me something about them. You see, Home Children were being sent to Canada between the years 1869 and 1949, and when I started this project I did not know that I already knew some of their children.

Years ago the CBC did a programme about Home Children and portrayed them as all having sad and abused lives. Not so. The bad experiences suffered by these waifs were few and far between. Most had very good lives. In Clarington, there was never a report of abuse to one of these children. In fact, many of the girls were adopted by their host families.

This was an excellent book to research and write. But writing the book isn’t the end of the project. I want to follow the lives of those nearly 700 to find out where they went, did they join up during WW1, who did they marry, and answers to other such questions. Like I said, a decades worth of work.