On their own - Britain's child migrants

Edith Barker

photo of a girl

Studio portrait of Edith taken in Liverpool prior to her departure to Quebec, Canada. Each child had a formal photograph taken like this. Reproduced courtesy Liverpool Record Office

"At Knowlton we received a most cheering and hearty reception, and every one who visited the Home seemed delighted with the children... Occasionally during the first days of our distribution work there would be a hue and cry from the children, ‘A farmer's coming!’ ‘Oh, let him have me, Mrs. Birt!’ ‘No, let him have me. I want to be a farmer and earn my own living’."
Lillian Birt, The Children’s Home-Finder 1913

Liverpool Sheltering Homes opened in 1873 to rescue destitute and neglected children, train them and then accompany them to a new life in Canada. From Knowlton, the Distributing Home in Quebec, they were sent to placement farms until they turned 18. Louisa Birt ran the Homes but later her daughter Lillian took over. When the movement to Canada ceased, the Homes closed in 1935.

Edith Barker was amongst a group of 47 girls and five boys that Louisa Birt took to Knowlton, Quebec in 1892. She was nine years old when they set sail aboard the Allan Line ship Parisian on 5 May from Liverpool. Later an annual report about her progress was sent back, along with a photograph, to the Distribution Home at Knowlton.

Edith’s progress

The annual report below gives details of Edith’s progress from August 1894 to August 1895. It was sent to the Knowlton Home, Quebec by her ‘master’ at her placement farm. According to him she was in good health, regularly went to church and attended school ‘all winter.’ Because she was under 14 she was not yet receiving a wage but was reported to be ‘happy and contented.’ The report is endorsed by a clergyman.

Reproduced courtesy Liverpool Record Office

The envelope that Edith's report was sent in.


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