Island writer searching for more information on British Home Children

Hundreds of British Home Children came to PEI between 1893 and 1930 and many came from hard circumstances and travelled across the Atlantic to new homes in North America.

Sara Underwood has been researching the roughly 190 children that emigrated to P.E.I. long ago

Sara Underwood plans to release the book this fall on Sept. 28 — a day the Canadian government recently named as British Home Child Day.

A P.E.I. writer is looking for information or photos for a book on British children that immigrated to the Island during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Island writer Sara Underwood's forthcoming book, titled Awful Kind, is about British Home Children, a cohort of thousands of British boys and girls sent to live and work in Canada between the late 1800s and early 1900s.

She said about 190 British Home Children came to P.E.I. in that time period, particularly through the Middlemore Children's Emigration Home in Birmingham, U.K.,  escaping "dire situations" and life on the streets overseas.

Many ended up in the eastern portion of the province working as labourers or as servants on farms or in homes, Underwood added. While some were shown kindness and love in their new homes, some were not.

I'm hoping that descendants of some of these children will, if they take a look, they might see names they recognize.— Sara Underwood

"Many of them had really difficult lives before they even came to Canada and that's how they ended up into this kind of child immigration movement and then when they got here their lives were harder in some ways," she said.

"They would run away. Some of them would be children who were used to running free on the streets of Birmingham ... so suddenly to be in rural P.E.I. in winter would be just so foreign for them."

'People hadn't even said these names in over a century'

Underwood has done extensive research on the children sent to the province, but hopes to find even more stories and photos with the help of other Islanders.

'They would run away, some of them would be children who were used to running free on the streets of Birmingham,' Underwood says.

"If you think you have somebody in your family tree who was born in Britain but didn't really say a lot about how they came here, then sometimes that's a clue," she said.

​Islanders can see a list of the children's names on the home children website and Underwood can be reached through that site or on her Facebook page.

"I'm hoping that descendants of some of these children will, if they take a look, they might see names they recognize," she said.

"I really got a sense, when we're looking through the records, that people hadn't even said these names in over a century, that they had just gone."

Underwood plans to release the book this fall on Sept. 28 — a day the Canadian government recently named as British Home Child Day.

With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.