Saturday, 2 July 2016

How many surviving British Home Children?

Are you a home child?  Do you know one still living?

The last home child group, to the Fairbridge Farm School, arrived in British Columbia in 1947. There's a good chance several of them survive. Unfortunately nobody keeps track of surviving home children, unlike survivors of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) of the First World War as they dwindled down to a precious few.

Can you estimate of how many home children are still alive in 2016, before you continue on to the next paragraph? Would your best guess be none, 1, 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000? Remember about 100,000 home children came to Canada between 1869 and 1947.

If you know the numbers of children arriving in Canada year-by-year, their ages, and have statistics on death rates you can estimate survival.

There are uncertainties in the inputs. Those arriving in the late 1930s are not well documented. It's known there were groups brought by Fegan, data for them is good. Barnardo's brought about 28 in 1939, Quarrier's about the same number in 1938. There may be other fairly small Barnardo's, Quarrier's, and Church of England groups. If you know of them please let me know.

What about the death statistics? Age specific death rates exist for Canada for 1921 to 2011 for the general population. Outside those dates you have to make estimates.You do have to use age-specific death rates. Are they applicable to the special circumstances of the home children who had a disturbed childhood?

Some of the survivors are likely not living in Canada so the application of Canadian death statistics to them is questionable. Just as the last member of the CEF, John Babcock, lived much of his life in the US it may well be that the last home child survivor will not be living in Canada.

I've done a calculation and estimate that in 2016 there are around 100 survivors, the youngest in his late 70s.


Janice Davis said...

My paternal grandpa and my grandma were both British Home children. Grandpa, William Preston Davis died in 1971 in BC(DOB 1884) Grandma, Margaret Jane Kerr died in 1987 also in BC(DOB1889.) Grandma's sister Mary Anne Kerr was also a home child. Mary was born in Belfast in 1891. We don't know when she died. My generation has no contact with her children. We never knew them. Her husband James Cunningham, I think was also a home child, he died in Ontario in 1965 (DOB 1885 Isle of Man.)
It is interesting how this subject isn't important in Canadian History. I know both my grandparents suffered, Grandma and her sister were separated when they reached Canada. Families were torn apart. Grandpa never saw his mom again. None of them had a loving family to use as a role model for raising their own families. :(

JDR said...

Thank you for the comment and information Janice.

It's gratifying to see that despite the difficult start to their lives they lived to a good age. I'm interested to see a home child marrying another home child - it seems that happened more often than you'd expect based on their numbers in the population.