Wednesday, 4 January 2017

The links that bind us to Canada ...... reflections on the 150th anniversary

Now my connection with Canada goes back a long time and strictly speaking predates my birth and that of my mother’s and began in 1914 when my great uncle Roger was shipped over as a British Home Child and continued when his sister joined him eleven years later.

Food parcels from Canada, courtesy of our cousin Chris, 2014
She entered the country on an Empire Scheme, married and had an extensive family.

We knew her as aunt Dolly.

My sister’s corresponded with her in the mid 1970s and that was about it until I discovered great uncle Roger.

Neither I nor my sisters knew anything about him or for that matter another great uncle who died aged six months in 1902.

Nor did we know that great aunt Dolly had been born in the Derby Workhouse or that she and her siblings including my grandfather had grown up institutions managed by the Derby Poor Law Union.

Such are the revelations that come when you begin the “family history trail.

Great aunt Dolly and family, circa 1940s
For anyone who has gone looking for their family and in particular a BHC none of this will be surprising.

It is a given that for many of us our own family story can be a mystery which is made more difficult to unravel when promising leads get nowhere and you confront some pretty awful discoveries.

But the upside is that you slowly do get to know about your past and along the way make contact with relatives you never knew.

And that for us that has meant a whole new “half family” who share our great grandfather and extensive family in Canada who are descendants of great aunt Dolly.

Poster, date unknown
Through my half cousin in Kent we learned a little more about our great grandfather Montague and this we have shared with my relatives in Canada who in turn have provided much about our great aunt.

And of course in the process we have discovered so many more family in Canada, which culminated with our Saul spending a month with them last year, almost a century after great uncle Roger and great aunt Dolly crossed the Atlantic.

Added to this has been new friendships forged through that shared interest in BHC, and include Lori, Susan and many more.

All of which means that this British Home Child story which will go on and as we celebrate 150 years I would like to republish a few of the stories of the family.

Location; Gravesend, Derby, Ontario

Pictures, food parcel from Canada, great aunt Dolly and family from the collections of the Simpson and Pember families, and Canadian poster courtesy of Neil Simpson

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