Findmypast launched first global collection for tracing British Home Children

A major new collection of British Home Children records was launched yesterday on Findmypast that will allow millions of descendants of British Home Children to trace their ancestors for free – many for the first time.

Created in collaboration with organizations 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.

Sarah Bush, Findmypast Managing Director, said, “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.”

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.

More than 130,000 children, now known as British Home Children, were sent across the Commonwealth, in particular to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Only 12 percent 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.

British immigrant children — Home Children — from Dr. Barnardo’s Homes wait at the landing stage in Saint John, New Brunswick. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

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, centralized 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.

Lori Oschefski, 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.”

You may need to set up a free account to access these records.

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