Celebrate British Home Child Day- Write about the British Home Children in Your Family Lines


September 28, 2019 is the 150th anniversary of the arrival of British Home Children on the shores of Canada. This blog post “re-celebrates” the British Home Children I found in a collateral line.

I enjoy exploring new types of records so finding adopted children living with James Atkey Jr., my great grandfather John’s brother, in the 1901 Canada Census for Keppel Township, Grey County, started me off on one of those tangents.1 Could the George, born 30 April 1880, and Mary Singleton, born 2 May 2 1882, listed with James and his wife Ann Jane (Cross), be British Home Children?

A search of the Home Children database on the Library and Archives website, produced two hits, a George Singleton age 8 and a Polly Singleton age 6 who arrived in Quebec City on the ship the Vancouver on 7 July 1888.2 They appear to be part of a party of 48 children in the charge of Mrs. Evans, Matron, who represented Rev. Dr. Stephenson. Rev. Dr. Stephenson was associated with the National Children’s Home in England. The party was bound for Hamilton, Ontario.

The name, Polly, set me back until a fellow researcher noted that Polly is a nickname for Mary derived from another nickname for Mary, Molly. Back tracking to the 1891 Canada Census brought more questions as I found a Frank and Cora Atkey listed with James and Ann Jane Atkey.3 The ages, 10 and 7, were appropriate to be those of George and Mary. Deciding that potential marriages might answer my questions I searched for them.

Mary Singleton married Thomas Davidson, son of Joseph Davidson and Alice Brown at the home of James and Ann Jane Atkey, Oxenden, Keppel Township, Grey County, 18 April 1901.4 The section of the marriage registration that requested the names of her parents was filled in with the following statement, “not known, adopted by James Atkey.” The newspaper report of the wedding noted her name as Cora Atkey and her brother as Frank Atkey.5 So Polly was Mary Cora Singleton or Mary Cora Atkey. He husband was a blacksmith in Oxenden and Wiarton, and then took over his father’s farm in 1916.

George married Phoebe Jane Porter, daughter of Joshua Porter and Bessie Kennedy, on 15 April 1908 at Keppel Township.6 In the remarks section of their marriage registration the following notation was written, “The bridegroom is an English immigrant and is commonly known as Francis G. Atkey.” So George was Francis [Frank] George Singleton or Francis [Frank] George Atkey.

George [Frank] farmed lot 11, Jones Range, and operated a cement block and tile business. He served as a Sunday School Superintendent for Oxenden Methodist Church and as a member of the school board for SS# 5 Keppel, at Oxenden. He moved to Wiarton after he retired.

With the many stories of abuse of British Home Children, I wondered how George and Mary fared. According to a local man’s recollections, James and Ann were “kindness itself and gave these children not only a good home but a Christian upbringing.”7 The circumstances of each child in later life seems to bear out the truth of that statement.

I have not yet ventured into research of the available records in England for George and Polly Singleton. During the creation of this blog post the question “What am I waiting for?” came to mind. Out of curiosity I did explore the Juvenile Inspection Records which are digitized on the Heritage.canadiana website even though by the time these records were created “my” British Home Children were no longer juveniles.

There are a number of websites and Facebook groups that can help you in your search for the background of British Home Children. This list is not ordered in any particular way and probably leaves out some other valuable sources. I am sure that my readers will let me know what I missed.

British Home Child SIG [Special Interest Group] Ontario Genealogical Society Facebook group

British Home Child SIG [OGS website]

British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association Facebook group

British Home Children Advocacy and Research Association

British Home Children in Canada

Young Immigrants to Canada
Marjorie P. Kohli’s website

Dave Obee’s CanGenealogy website, links to websites about Home Children

Library and Archives Canada Home Children 1869-1932

Happy searching!

1. James Atkey family entries, 1901 Canada Census, Ontario, Grey North, District 65, Keppel Township, Sub-District C-6, 11, lines 2-5, downloaded from www.Ancestry.com, 3 May 2011.

2. George and Polly Singleton database printouts, Library and Archives Home Children 1869-1930 database, downloaded from www.collectionscanada.gc..ca/databases/home-children/001015…, 5 May 2011.
Passenger list for the Vancouver, arrival 3 July 1888 at Quebec, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865-1935, downloaded from www.Ancestry.com, 5 May 2011.

3. James Atkey family entries, 1891 Canada Census, Ontario, Grey North, District 68, Keppel Township, Sub-District Oxenden, 10, lines 5-8. Library and Archives microfilm reel T-6338, downloaded from www.ancestry.com, 3 May 2011.

4. Marriage registration for Thomas Davidson and Mary Singleton, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 932, reel 104, registration no. 7472, downloaded from www.Ancestry.com 3 May 2011.

5. Marriage notice for Thomas Davidson and Cora Atkey, Wiarton Echo, 25 April 1901.

6. Marriage registration for George Singleton and Phoebe Jane Porter, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 932, reel 134, registration no. 9494, downloaded from www.Ancestry.com, 3 May 2011.

7. William G. Cheshire, Wiarton to Big Bay, Colpoy’s Range, As remembered by William G. Cheshire, (Wiarton, Ontario: Wiarton Indexing and Mapping, 1974), 6. The copy that I accessed is held at the Owen Sound Library.

Note: Content in this blog post is from my article “Off on a Tangent with British Home Children” originally published in the Bruce & Grey Branch OGS newsletter, Volume 41, No. 3, August 2011, pp. 38-39. It has since been posted on the Global Genealogy website and can be found by entering the title of the article in quotations in your search engine of choice.

Yesterday I received my copy of Oxenden-The Way it Was. Author Lynne Porter wrote the content and drew the fine drawings of local buildings. I am looking forward to taking an afternoon to leisurely read it from cover to cover. The book can be ordered from The Brucedale Press. http://brucedalepress.ca/html/default.htm
Ancestors in my direct line through William Wilson Sims who married Ann Atkey, sister of my John Atkey, were also residents in Keppel Township which explains my interest in this book about Oxenden.

Alan Campbell
Ontario Ancestors [The Ontario Genealogical Society] © 2019

I receive no renumeration for the mention of commercial websites or for noting new books or genealogical software on the market. My mention of same is because I have used them to further my family history/genealogical research.


One thought on “Celebrate British Home Child Day- Write about the British Home Children in Your Family Lines

  1. A story of mine entitled Sarah Ann and Her Daughters appeared in an issue of Families a couple of years ago. However, more information has come to me and if you like, I can send the adapted version to your blog. It’s about 1750 words and there is a small family tree to keep relationships clear for the reader. Thanks. Sandra Marie Lewis

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