Sunday, October 14, 2007

Bristol Home Children and Immigration

Can you imagine having your child taken away from you because you are struggling financially to provide for them? Or can you imagine abandoning your child because you can not provide for them? Now imagine that your child would be sent away to live in foreign country and you would not know what happened to them. This was the plight of many children and struggling families from the city of Bristol England back in the late 19th to early 20th century. The Bristol Home Children and Immigration website provides an excellent resource for genealogists who may be searching for that missing child of an English family. Shirley Hodgson, the author of the website tells the plight of these young children who ultimately were from Workhouses, Industrial Schools, Reformatories and Ragged Schools in Bristol and also the Bristol Emigration Home for Girls and catapulted into a new life far away from their family and friends. The reason for the separation and or abandonment was mainly due to the socio-economic climate found in Great Britain at the end of the 19th century.

According to the author, Shirley Hodgson, "All the cities of Great Britain were facing problems of housing a large population, in certain areas houses with multi occupancy had become slum housing and it seemed that the streets were full of children, dirty, ragged and quick to steal food or goods that could be sold. They were stunted in growth, deformed by rickets and plagued by infections which affected their faces and bodies. Much of the labouring work was found on a daily basis, a man might get two days work in a week which would not be enough to feed his family. Mothers also worked; children were left to look after each other while parents were out, it was a very fine balance which would upset if a parent fell ill or even died. Families sold furniture to buy food and when that was all gone they sold what clothes they possessed so even if offered free schooling, the children were unable to go because they lacked clothing. When Mary Carpenter left Red Lodge Reformatory to walk from Lower Park Row, down Christmas Steps through Lewins Mead and into the narrow lane called St James Back, where she set up her ragged school, she was passing through a slum area bordering onto the docks. The children were left to run wild on the streets, they camped in dark doorways, made alleys their homes and lived on what food they could find.

The Bristol police brought many of these children before the magistrates, they were sentenced in the Petty Sessions Court, vagrants and petty offenders were sent to the Industrial Schools, persistent truants were sent to the Truant School in Kingsdown, the Boards of Guardians were asked to take some children. Many of the street children were eventually sent to the workhouse where they were settled into school buildings. The workhouses became full and as it was cheaper to send a child to Canada than keep him or her until they were 16 years of age, emigration was sought as an alternative. It was the considered opinion of many people that the fresh air and good farm food of Canada would give the children a fresh start in life."

Bristol Home Children and Immigration provide in PDF format a list of the children that were forced to immigrate to Canada. The information provided in this database includes: the full name (nicknames if available) and their birth date or emigration date with approximate age listed at the time of the passage. If you would like to further investigate this site, please click Bristol Home Children and Immigration to be directed to the home page. Have fun!

No comments: