Hi Friends, Many of you may be familiar with the Orphan Trains that took impoverished children from large cities in the East to live with families in small towns and on farms in the Midwest. But did you know that during that same time period more than 100,000 poor and orphaned British children were sent from England to Canada as British Home Children? This child emigration scheme was carried out to clear the streets, children’s homes, and workhouses of orphaned and abandoned children. They were promised a better life in Canada, but sadly that was not the case for all of them.
Most of them were not adopted and welcomed into families. Instead, the boys were taken in as indentured farm laborers and the girls worked as household servants called domestics, even at very young ages. Those who took them in simply filled out a form and paid a small fee. There was little screening and often no follow up. Because of this, and prevailing attitudes of the time, many of these children suffered neglect and mistreatment. They also suffered the pain of rejection and felt like outcasts and misfits because of social prejudice against home children.
When I learned more about child emigration and read true accounts of what happened to these children I was deeply touched, and I knew I needed to share their experiences and honor their memory by writing a novel focused on British Home Children.
My novel, No Ocean Too Wide, released this week and weaves actual accounts of what happened to British Home Children into the fictional McAlister family. When their widowed mother becomes seriously ill, three of the four children area taken into a children’s home and soon sent to Canada without their mother’s knowledge or permission. The oldest sibling, Laura, searches for them, following them all the way to Canada to try and rescue the children and reunite the family. She soon realizes she needs the legal help of a wealthy young solicitor, and the two join forces to confront the injustice of child emigration.
If you’d like to learn more about British Home Children, I hope you’ll purchase your copy of No Ocean Too Wide. Click on the cover for easy order links. You can also find out more about child emigration through the British Home Children’s Advocacy and Research Association website. You’ll find helpful articles and online tools to search for relatives who might have come to Canada in this way.
Have you every heard of child emigration and British Home Children? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Update: The winner of the giveaway was Stephanie Jenkins! Thanks for leaving your comments, especially those who shared their family stories! Those were so touching. I hope you’ll enjoy reading No Ocean Too Wide!
Until Next Time – Happy Reading,