The orphanage registers of the House of Providence are the main source of information about the British Home Children in the Archives of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.
The registers document the names of the children, their ages, and the name and addresses of their guardians in Canada. Apart from the orphanage registers the Archives does not have a lot of documentation about the English Orphans. What documentation does exist consists of a few mentions in the Council Minutes, Congregational Annals and three pieces of correspondence.
11 September 1887 – It was also at this meeting that the matter of taking the English Orphans (from Liverpool) was laid before Council. As it was the good pleasure of His Lordship to recommend the community to take charge of them little else was left for us to do, but cheerfully acquiesce in the matter which was accordingly done.
Signed by: Sister M. Edward, Supr. Gen. Sister M. Aloysius, Secretary
Fall 1887 – For several months negotiations had been in progress between the Community and the “Catholic Protection Society” of Liverpool, Eng. for the reception of Orphans sent to Canada by said Society. The Community hesitated and it was when assured that it would be pleasing to His Lordship that we consented to give the work a trial and made arrangements with the Matron Mrs. Lacy to receive the children in May of the following year.
Spring 1888 – Much speculation had been made (indulged in) regarding the accommodation to be given the English orphans. On their arrival May 23rd friends of the Community advised the purchase of some of the houses adjoining our property on Ordnance Street, but found on application that the “Routley property” as it is called could not be sold until the youngest heir is of age, which shall not be for six years, so other arrangements must be made. And the next best thing was to try and rent when we could not purchase. We accordingly rented a stone house on Bay Street from Alexander Martin, for one year at $8.00 per month. Opened a door through our stone wall and thus had an entrance from our own yard into it. Willing hands soon prepared this domicile for the expected guests.
23 May 1888 – On May 23rd…Mrs. Lacy, Matron of the Catholic Protection Society of Liverpool England arrived bringing to us one hundred and thirty children, ranging in ages from 3 to 15 years. Many persons were already in the house prepared to adopt these poor little strangers. It was a touching sight to see these poor little creatures clinging to each other, brother fearing to be parted from sister and sisters dreading a separation from each other. In all cases where it was possible members of the same family were placed as near each other as they could be.
House of Providence
Kingston, Dec. 20, 1888
Sisters of Mt. St. Vincent
Very dear Sisters,
In the merciful designs of a loving Providence, we are once more permitted to address you on the return of the Happy Feast of the Birth of Our Infant God to wish each and every one of our Spiritual Children the joys of the season particularly the joy that consists in the security that follows a well-spent year, the consolation of feeling that in our hearts Christ will be really born, that we will hear the Anthem of the Angels “Peace on earth to men of good will”. Peace and Joy such as this we wish you from the inmost recesses of a loving affectionate heart.
Thinking that a few items relative to the affairs of the Mother House may prove interesting to you we take this occasion of relating some of the principal favors God has been pleased to bestow on us.
Our financial condition is much improved by the timely decision of our good Bishop. The whole Diocese has been gone over with the best of results. At the suggestion of the same good, kind Father we received the English Orphans, one hundred and five in May and fifty-three in August. The fact of receiving these waifs necessitated a change in our quarters so a house was rented by the Catholic Children’s Protection Society of Liverpool. This gave to the Women’s Ward the Dormitory and to the men all the basement flat. We have bought the Forsyth property joining our yard and having an opening on Sydenham Street for $2800.00. To one of the houses on it we removed all the simple minded women thereby securing more peace and comfort for those not so afflicted. The other houses on the premises are to be for the children and will be connected by a passage to the main building. God has sent us the means and we will make His Poor more comfortable.
Our Novitiate is really as prosperous as we could wish, eleven entered during the year, two of these returned to the world and five are now ready for the Holy Habit. The remaining four are in their first quarter, all filled with an ardent desire to fit themselves for the exercise of Charity. God has indeed done wonders for us but He has asked a return. He has asked our Benjamin and no matter that our hearts were rent the Holocaust must be offered. May His Holy Will be accomplished in us all.
Once more wishing you All a peaceful, happy Christmas and a joyful New year.
Believe me to be most devotedly at the Crib of Bethlehem.
Sr. M. Edward, Sup. Gen.
Copybook pages 87-89
House of Providence
Kingston April 12, 1889
With reference to your letter dated March 7 I may say that I fully realized the truth and importance of your statement concerning the separation of children of the same family. I am certain that many heartless parents do not hesitate to say, “that if your Society will not adopt all their children the entire family will be given to the Protestants”.
I am indeed deeply interested in the children sent to our Institution and would gladly say to you – send all those children who need to be rescued from the grasp of the enemies of our Faith, but that is not possible as I fully explained to you before the difficulties encountered here in finding good Catholic homes for small children. However this much I do say – that if your Society will allow something more than four dollars for children under six years, that may remain longer than a couple of months in the Institution, then I agree to accept as many as your Society really think should be rescued from the bad example of bad parents or otherwise exposed to the influence of the proselytizing Societies.
I do assure you dear Sir, that my Sisters have left nothing undone in the way of securing good homes for the children and so far have been fairly successful but in a great many cases the children have been returned, then they must be clothed and if another home can be provided their travelling expenses must be met by our Institution.
Mrs. Lacy can testify that not one out of twenty consent to pay the children’s fare. At present there is not a single application either in this or the London Diocese for boys. I have many for large girls from the City and Diocese of Kingston and not a few parties took boys with the express understanding that they could exchange those boys for girls in May. This will undoubtedly leave a number of boys in our hands.
I am however hopeful that Mrs. Lacy will be able to dispose of a goodly number of boys in London, consequently I am willing to receive the children as usual excepting those cases already mentioned.
Now as regards the aid promised in fitting up the place for these children, I will leave that to the Society, either to give a little each year or a sum that they consider adequate for the purpose.
Allow me to reassure you dear Sir, that the same unfailing and charitable interest will be exercised towards those poor children in future as in the past.
Wishing you and all interested in this good work courage and perseverance to accomplish their noble purpose.
I am very sincerely
Sister M. Edward, Sup. Gen.
Copybook Pages 99-102
Richard Yates, Esq. Liverpool, Eng.
My dear Sir,
Although I am convinced that you have been duly apprised of the difficulties which have presented themselves in our dealings with the Orphans of your Society during the past year; still on the part of the Community I feel obliged to call your attention to the dissatisfaction which is felt throughout on account of non-compliance with some regulations which were made between the Community and the “Protection Society”. In my letter of April ’89, I briefly set forth a few conditions upon which the children could be admitted at the Institution, namely, that children under six years, unless homes had been previously secured, would not be received at the same rate as others $4.00. Now there are three children under six years remaining after the last party, and one who came June ’90, and who has not been placed yet. Altogether we have thirteen in the orphanage at present most all come under a class that is most difficult to place. Actually there is more expended for travelling and clothes than would keep them comfortably lodged in Liverpool.
I may say further that all Incurables, eyes, ears, etc, idiotics and deformities were prohibited admission; nevertheless they have been brought out. This procedure the Community considers quite unfair and I think after May ’92, none shall be willing to receive the orphans. My object in apprising you of this fact at this early date is that you may make other arrangements.
In conclusion then dear Sir, permit me to state that we have a boy Patrick Page about eight years of age who is a decided idiot and for whom the Community will not be responsible. I feel confident had these rules been faithfully kept greater success would have followed our work.
I am dear Sir,
Mother M. Edward Sup. Gen.
Copybook Pages 137-138