Are you a descendant of a British child immigrant? Is there a “home child” in your family background? How would you know? Join historian and author Art Joyce at the Creston Museum at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 for his presentation, Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest: Honouring Canada’s Child Immigrants.
Between roughly 1867 and 1939, over 100,000 poor children were emigrated from Britain to Canada as means of providing indentured labourers for newly developing farms or — in the case of girls — domestic servants for households. Tens of thousands more children were sent to Australia and New Zealand. Siblings were often separated and in most cases never saw one another or their parents again. Only a minority were actual orphans and even fewer were adopted by the families they worked for. It was seen as an expedient solution to the growing poverty problem created by the Industrial Revolution in Britain, while at the same time helping develop the colonies.
Joyce discovered that he was the grandson of just such a home child about five years ago while doing genealogical research into his Joyce ancestors. Since then, he has been expanding his interest to include research on the history of Canada’s child immigrants and, in particular, its impact on families in the Columbia Basin. He plans to compile a book based on both his own family’s experience and the experiences of other basin families who have home children in their background. This project is supported by funds from the Columbia Basin Trust.
Joyce is the author of two books of West Kootenay history, A Perfect Childhood and Hanging Fire and Heavy Horses, on the heritage homes and public transit of the historic city of Nelson. A passage from A Perfect Childhood is quoted in the Knowledge Network’s BC Moments series and he was a popular heritage columnist for the Nelson Daily News from 1996-2000. He currently works as arts and culture editor for the Valley Voice newspaper in the Slocan Valley and is also the author of two recent books of poetry.
Joyce will also make his presentation at the Kimberley Public Library (7 p.m. Sept. 22), Cranbrook’s Canadian Museum of Rail Travel (4 p.m. Sept. 23) and the Windermere Valley Museum (2 p.m. Sept. 24).