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First Global Collection for Tracing British Home Children Launched by Findmypast

28 Feb 2024 12:49 PM | Anonymous

The following is a press release issued by Home Children Canada:

  • New collaboration between Canadian and UK organisations sees creation of first major collection of records pertaining to Home Children

  • Over 130,000 British children were sent to British Overseas Territories as part of forced migration scheme between 1860s and 1970s

  • Offered for free, the records will allow estimated 4m+ descendants of Home Children to trace their ancestors for the first time

  • Collection launched on Findmypast at Rootstech, in collaboration with The National Archives, British Library, Library and Archives Canada, and Home Children Canada

A major new collection of Home Children records has launched today on family tree website, Findmypast, which will allow millions of descendants of British Home Children to trace their ancestors for free – many for the first time. 

Created in collaboration with organisations across the UK and Canada, including The National Archives, The British Library, Library and Archives Canada, and Home Children Canada, the new collection features a vast and varied range of records which tell the stories of those who were part of the forced child migrant scheme in place from the 1860s up to the 1970s.

The collection, launched at Rootstech, will be a growing repository with records added on an ongoing basis. It currently includes workhouse records, Juvenile Inspection Reports, Home Children Board of Guardian Records and emigration reports, while future updates are likely to see historical newspapers, migration records, workhouse and institutional records, periodicals and military records added.

Over 130,000 children, now known as ‘British Home Children’, were sent across the Commonwealth, in particular to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Only 12% of these children were ‘true orphans’ - many came from charitable homes, workhouses, or destitute and struggling families. They were usually fostered into families when they reached their destinations to be used as unpaid domestic or farming labour. 

However, abuse was widespread in a system which offered little protection to the children and few investigations into the care they received from their foster families. Many were relocated several times during their childhood, and often separated from their siblings.

Historically, descendants of Home Children have struggled to trace their roots, with most records held in private archives and inaccessible to the public. This collection will provide an open-access, centralised set of resources for descendants to trace their forced migrant ancestors back to the UK and their birth families and add them directly to their family tree on Findmypast.

Sarah Bush, Findmypast Managing Director, said:

We’re extremely proud to launch this groundbreaking new collection, which will allow millions more people to uncover the stories of their forced migrant ancestors. It’s an incredibly poignant and complex part of our Commonwealth history, and these records will shed light on the lives and experiences of the British Home children, which have so often been overlooked or concealed. 

At Findmypast, we believe that every story matters, and we hope to offer renewed hope of discovering ancestors and even new connections to families across the globe – easily and completely for free.”

Roger Kershaw, Head of Strategic Operations and Volunteers at The National Archives, said: 

Many of the children dispatched from the UK to Canada were from children’s homes and had their past erased before being used as cheap labour, with boys working on farms and girls as domestic servants. 

Records from The National Archives reveal some of the government decisions leading to the emigration of children as young as one-year-old, including correspondence from the Home Office, Ministry of Health, Local Government Board and Colonial Office, with those bodies leading the policy, such as Dr Barnado’s.

We are pleased to be able to contribute to this collection which will provide new avenues for research into the story of the British Home Children.”

Lori Oschefski, an expert on British Home Children, President of the charity Home Children Canada, and a descendant of a Home Child herself, said: 

This new database is significant because it fills crucial gaps in our understanding of Home Children's histories. These gaps hindered comprehensive research efforts, but now, with access to previously unavailable data, we can uncover deeper insights into the experiences and journeys of Home Children. 

As the daughter of a Home Child, I cannot overstate the importance of this new collection for our community. While I conducted significant research for my mother before her passing, accessing records was challenging, and the information in this index was unavailable to me. This collection will revolutionize the search for information on British Home Children, offering understanding, closure, and peace of mind to millions of affected descendants whose personal histories were stripped away by migration programs.”

Discover the collection for free on Findmypast:

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