A Boy Orphaned in London, England

Sent to Canada as a Home Child, 1898


The facts as presented:

A man died in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 1965. He had found employment as a tailor during his adult life. Hints within the family suggested that the man’s father had died by suicide in London, England, in about 1888, and that the boy had been sent to Canada as a Home Child.

The challenge:

Could I discover whether the family stories were accurate, and if so, what the name of the man’s mother was?

The records consulted:

All surviving Admissions & Discharges Registers from the various Workhouses in the Southwark Poor Law Union of the County of Surrey, England, were surveyed, for both Admission and Discharge details. Wikipedia and other 'Workhouse' related sites provided significant supporting detail about the various Workhouses and Orphanages in which the boy was housed. Records associated with the Southwark Catholic Emigration Society which are held at Library & Archives Canada were completely examined, for details pertaining to the boy and his siblings. Ship passenger lists (both departing from the UK, and arriving in Canada), city directories, and newspapers from both England and locations in Canada were scoured for pertinent details, as were indexes to civil registration records of births, marriages & deaths in England, Scotland, Ireland, and the provinces of Ontario, Saskatchewan and Bitish Columbia in Canada (and original registration records were examined in several instances). Pertinent details were searched for and found in both English and Canadian census schedules.

The results:

The man was taken in as a young boy by officials at the Christ Church Workhouse in the County of Surrey, England, in mid-July of 1888. His father had just committed suicide, and his mother was said to be very ill. Taken in with him were 3 siblings, although a story about the suicide found initially in a London newspaper (2 slightly differing versions were subsequently published in 5 or 6 more distant regional newspapers) indicated that there were 5 children in all. With the children soon thereafter treated as 'orphans', details about the boy’s time and movements from one Workhouse to another, and then as he aged, from one orphanage to another, were found. In 1898, he underwent a medical examination at his last residential school, then traveled to Liverpool, and was transported to Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, via Quebec. There he apparently underwent an apprenticeship in a merchant tailors’ shop in Ottawa, and by about 1910 he was in Saskatchewan where he married, living and working as a tailor. As noted above, around 1919, or so, he subsequently moved to the Vancouver area, where he remained until fatally injured in an automobile accident while crossing a street in 1965. The boy’s mother’s forename was obtained from one of the Workhouse admission registers, but her maiden surname has eluded us. Very curiously, and very frustratingly, no civil English, Scottish or Irish birth registration records have been found for any of the children. It has since been discovered that the boy’s 3 siblings were also sent to Canada as Home Children under the auspices of the Southwark Catholic Emigration Society, between 1890 and 1899. Also frustrating, is the fact that no civil marriage registry record has been found for the parents. References to a Coroner’s Inquest held upon the father’s death at the City of London hospital where he died, and his subsequent civil death registration record, have been identified, but no evidence of either a civil death or a subsequent civil marriage record in the mother’s known names has been found.

 - - - - Project P210518    (Completed 30 October 2021)     

Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.