In an earlier blog post, I talked about eighteenth century children's charities like Captain Coram's Foundling Hospital. In late Victorian Britain, there were still huge numbers of impoverished children. They survived by begging and stealing, or selling matches, sweeping the streets and shining shoes, etc.
philanthropist Dr Thomas Barnardo (1845–1905) opened his first children’s home, for boys, at Stepney in 1870; a girls' home was founded shortly afterwards at Barkingside.
Barnardo took in children with disabilities
and social handicaps like illegitimacy at a time when some other charities would not take them in. In
1884 Barnardo opened a ‘Babies Castle’ at Hawkhurst. But when he found that the infants did not thrive well in an institution, he later boarded out the children. If you have an ancestor who was a Barnardo's child, there's help here on the Barnardo's website.
The Church of England Society for Waifs and Strays (1881) was another
famous organization: it is now the
Children's Society. You can find out more about the Society, its children and the homes it ran here on Hidden Lives Revealed.
Barnardo's and other charities believed that poor children would have better prospects in life if separated from their impoverished parents, and they began emigration schemes to Australia, Canada and other Commonwealth countries.
Some child emigrants were treated very harshly in their new homes overseas, and were used as cheap labour. Some emigration schemes ran until 1970. The Child Migrants Trust helps former child migrants find their origins, and provides counselling. The
Trust’s website has information about tracing records and the history of child
migration. Tracing Your Ancestors' Childhood also has tips about tracing ancestors who were in charities' care, child migrants, WW2 evacuees. Websites and archives for charities and voluntary organisations are listed in its research guide.
Postcard of the Babies’ Castle, Hawkhurst, Kent, a Dr Barnardo home, postmarked 1911.
A photo postcard of a mother and daughters, c.1910. Author's collection.