When West Kootenay author Sean Arthur Joyce was researching his family tree, he discovered that immigration records showed his paternal grandfather came to Canada with three other boys and a chaperone, but without parents. When he consulted a genealogist he was introduced to the term Home Children. That sparked his journalistic curiosity to investigate further and led to his newly released non-fiction “Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest: Canada’s Home Children in the West.”
Between 1869 and 1948, 100,000 children from poor neighbourhoods in Britain were sent to Canada without parental support to work as indentured servants.
Joyce said he hopes to raise awareness about Home Children.
“The wider story interested me because I realized if this happened in my family, it must have happened in many other Canadian families,” he said. “There are an estimated four million people who can trace their roots back to Home Children.”
“Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest” chronicles this essential yet seldom-discussed aspect of Canadian history. Joyce’s book combines exhaustive research with memoir and creative nonfiction to paint a vivid picture of life for a Canadian Home Child.
Joyce noted the Home Children practice kept up well into the 1900s, helped by dozens of immigration agencies, many of questionable repute. Though some of the children did well, many were exploited and abused, their new lives hardly an improvement on the ones they left behind.
A few Canadian families adopted the children, but most were wanted strictly for their labour.
Joyce’s book explores the lesser-known part of the story — what happened to some of these children in Western Canada. The author also explores the impact of this experience on subsequent generations of Canadians.
Joyce will be coming to the Cranbrook Public Library on Thursday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. and the Kimberley Library on Friday, Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m. as part of his Columbia Basin tour.