Friday, 25 March 2016

On almost discovering another chapter in the story of a British Home Children .........

I had forgotten the frustrations that come with searching for a relative, especially when that relative was in Canada and quite clearly did not want to be found.

Places I know he was ......... Nova Scotia
It has been a long time since I went looking for my great uncle who was migrated in the care of Middlemore acting for the Derby Poor Law Guardians in 1914.

His like many was not a happy first year in Canada.  The reports coming back from the farms he went to describe a troubled young man who was lazy but “was even tempered, good with the children, kind to the animals, - a great reader, does not run around and is quiet.”*

All of which I suspect is consistent with a lad who had been in institutions since he was four and was running pretty wild when he was taken back into care at the age of 15.

The search for him in Canada has had its ups and downs and after a great start the trail went cold.  I have his army records, a few scraps from Middlemore and the memories of his sister who also went to Canada.

It is a pattern of research which will be all too familiar to any family historian and especially to those of us looking for a British Home Child.

The army records are complete and ironically are the only such records for any of the rest of my family who served in the Great War.

Places I know he was ......... New Brunswick 
Their papers were lost when over 60% of the service records of British soldiers were lost in the Blitz.

Great uncle Roger’s service records show that he continued to resent authority and got himself into some quite serious scraps.

But with his demobilzation in 1918 I lose him.

There are a few vague references of what happened to him from his sister who went out to Canada on an assisted scheme in 1925.

Chief of these is that he went west and that is it.

But today I started again fully aware that he will now be dead and that the trail will always be made more difficult by his apparent unwillingness to be found.

Back in 1915 when he ran away from his last placement and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, he changed his name, lied about his age and falsified his next of kin back in England.

And that rather suggests that he might well have been prepared to create fresh identities.

After all this was the pre-digital age when a name and date of birth delivered with a “clear voice and a straight eye” would pretty much be believed.

Places I know he was ......... New Brunswick
That said I found a James Rogers on the 1921 census in District 27, Vanocouver, BC.

The age is about right, the place of birth while vague is also correct and it is the best of a list of James Roger’s.

But it’s not him or at least I don’t think so.  The census return shows that he was married with three children living with his 18 year old sister in law who was clearly not my great aunt, added to which he had arrived in Canada in 1905.

So the search goes on but it has revealed how different the Canadian census return was to the ones I am familiar with.

It maybe that I become more familiar with the census record, although I suspect the search will continue to be side tracked by great uncle Roger’s wish to fall through the cracks.

We shall see.

Location; Canada

Pictures; places I know my great uncle lived in NB & NS,  from the collection of Andrew Simpson

*Mrs Lottie Moffatt, June, 1915, North Sydney, Cape Breton, NS, report of the Fairview Station, Middlemore Homes

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