Thursday, January 17, 2013

Freddie Burchill, Home Child

Uncle Freddie Burchill, who married my Dad’s aunt Agnes Vanasse, was a British home child. A “home child” was often poor, perhaps an orphan, perhaps living in a slum or in some kind of institution (workhouse, orphanage, or in a children’s home).[1] A child in these circumstances was sent to Canada as a way of ‘saving’ him or her from a life of destitution.

Freddie came to Canada as a youngster in July 1916. (I believe that Freddie is the same person as “Fred Burchell”, 9 years old, who arrived on 22 July 1916 at the port of Quebec.)[2]

When I visited him and Aunt Aggie at their apartment in Ottawa in the late 1970s or early 1980s, he told me a little about himself and how he came to live in Canada. Unfortunately, I have forgotten the details. For example, I don’t know if he told me that he was an orphan (many home children were), where in England he was originally from, or how he was treated once he was placed with his adoptive family.

Freddie was one of 98,000 British children sent to Canada between 1870 and 1930.[3] In the summer of 1916, he and 67 other children came to Canada under the auspices of the Catholic Emigration Association. They left the port of Liverpool on July 14th on board the Scandinavian, and arrived in Quebec City on July 22nd.[4] These boys and girls were one of the last groups of children to immigrate to Canada during World War I because by 1917 “all child emigration was prohibited by the British government, because of the dangers of travel by sea”.[5]

S/S Scandinavian (2), Allan Line
(Photo credit: S/S Scandinavian (2), Allan Line; Norway - Heritage,[6]

The children’s destination was St. George’s Home in Hintonburg, near Ottawa, Ontario.[7] St. George’s Home, headquarters for the CES, was located in Hintonburg, which was on the western outskirts of Ottawa, but is now part of that city. The emigrant boys and girls stayed here until they were placed or adopted with suitable families. Boys were typically sent to farms as labourers, while girls were placed in domestic service.[8] In Uncle Freddie’s case, he told me that Thomas and Anna (Kennedy) Nephin, of Chichester, Pontiac County, Quebec, adopted him.

Freddie died at the age of 82 in November 1989 and Agnes died in June 2000.

Freddie and Agnes Burchill on their 50th wedding anniversary 1985
Freddie and Aggie Burchill on their 50th wedding anniversary, 1985.


1. “Home Children: Origins”, British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa ( : accessed 3 August 2010).

2. “Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935”, digital images, ( : accessed 3 August 2010), entry for Fred Burchell, age 9, arrived Quebec 22 July 1916 on the Scandinavian.

3. Frederick J. McEvoy, “’These Treasures of the Church of God’: Catholic Child Immigration to Canada”, Historical Studies 65 (1999), online archives, Canadian Catholic Historical Association ( : accessed 6 August 2010), p. 50.

4. “Home Children (1869-1930)”, database, Library and Archives Canada ( : accessed 3 August 2010), entry for Fred Burchell.

5. McEvoy, “’These Treasures of the Church of God’: Catholic Child Immigration to Canada”, p. 61.

6. Photo of S/S Scandinavian (built 1898), digital image, Norway – Heritage ( : accessed 12 January 2013), choose the search function of “Emigrant Ships”, search for “Scandinavian”, and retrieve the image by selecting “S/S Scandinavian (2), Allan Line”.

7. “Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935”, digital images,, entry for Fred Burchell, 9, arrived Quebec 22 July 1916, Scandinavian.

8. McEvoy, “’These Treasures of the Church of God’: Catholic Child Immigration to Canada”, p. 50.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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