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Net Notes May 2006
Halvor Moorshead describes three databases worth searching

100,000 Canadian Home Children
Shortly after Canadian confederation in 1867, the British began to send young children to the new country. There was no name for this “export” of young people at the time but eventually they became known as the Home Children. This “export” continued until the 1930s when it died out due to the Depression. During the time it was operating, Canada received five and a half million immigrants of whom two percent (100,000) were Home Children. Seventy percent of them settled in Ontario.

Although the majority of the children were between 7 and 14, they ranged in age from six months to the late teens or even early 20s. Contrary to popular belief, only a minority (about 30 percent) were orphans. Many were from abusive homes, others were, what we today call, street children; others had been in trouble of some sort or another. A surprising number came from families that were unable to support all their children.

Once in Canada, many of the older boys were sent to farms as cheap labor while the older girls were often used as “mother’s helpers”. Younger children were generally adopted. This arrangement suited both Britain and Canada. Although it could be viewed as a form of “passing the buck” on unwanted children, they were welcomed in Canada where there was always a greater demand than Britain could supply.

The arrival records of these Home Children have been transcribed, thanks to the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO). The society has scoured arrival lists looking for any mention of Home Children. The database itself is on the Library and Archives Canada website. The records themselves are somewhat sparse and, from the notations made by the transcribers, many would appear to have been difficult to read. The website only provides the index but it does give the microfilm reel number, the name of the ship and the departure and arrival dates: this information will make a lookup of the original fairly easy.

Shaw's Dublin City Directory for 1850
City directories are an under-appreciated resource. Before the days of telephones, these directories, which covered counties or regions as well as cities, were the way that you found people. Some of these directories have been indexed and can be searched on the ‘net. An interesting one that we found was Shaw’s Dublin City Directory for 1850. This is particularly useful because Irish records from this time period are somewhat sparse.

Modern phone books may be very useful but the old directories have an edge in that they list people’s occupation. This is very helpful when trying to distinguish between people of the same name.

Unlike many indexing projects, this Shaw’s Directory is the work of a single person, Trish Loughman who told us, “I figured [that] I had this resource which, while interesting to me, could be very useful for people whose families were no longer here [in Dublin]. In the first years after I put it online, I got many messages from people confirming old family tales of an ancestor who made hats or stuffed birds, or taught piano or whatever, and I loved getting them... in total it took me about two years to complete and type up”.

Loughman adds, “It only lists householders and business owners, and the information seems to have been collected in 1849. This was probably done door to door and orally, as many names appear in a couple of formats, depending, I suppose, on whether the collector had heard the name before”. She tells us that she is currently inputting Porter’s Directory of North County Dublin for 1912 as an additional resource — parts of which are already online.

Boston Passenger Manifests
The Ellis Island passenger arrivals records database at was one of the earliest major databases for genealogists to appear on the web. It features some 25 million passenger arrivals (not, as is often believed, only immigrants) and is a magnificent resource. But the earliest records are from 1892 and, although New York was the port of arrival for most immigrants, it was by no means the only one.

My great-grandfather became an American citizen in 1921, almost 50 years after arriving in the US. His application papers give his arrival as October 1872 at Boston, traveling from St. John, NB. On the application he says he has forgotten the name of the ship. I did spend several hours searching microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City for his arrival but without any luck, as a lot of the film was almost unreadable.

So, when it was announced recently that Massachusetts Archives had started to index these arrivals, I was quite excited.

Massachusetts started to record the names of immigrants who arrived by ship in January 1848 and continued until July 1891, when federal records-keeping programs superseded those of the state. Although immigrants arrived at numerous Massachusetts ports, the Archives only holds manifests for Boston. The Archives has an alphabetical card index covering the same years as the registers and providing the same information. This includes the name, age, sex and occupation of the immigrant; the country of birth, last residence and the passenger list number. Also included is the name of the ship and the date of its arrival in Boston. Over one million immigrants came through the Port of Boston during this time period.

Through the Archives Volunteer program, volunteers are now entering this information into a computerized database. Once a surname is entered into the database it goes through an editing process and when completed it will appear on the website. This database will be updated periodically.

Sadly, my great-grandfather’s name does not yet appear in the database, but until it does I know that
I can look him up manually on the card index if I
am in Boston or can hire a researcher to do so.

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