Recently, I started another blog, one that shares the stories of British Home Children. Most Canadians remain unaware of a 70-year period in our history that saw over 100,000 children, some orphaned, others simply poor, sent here from the UK to work as indentured servants. At least 10% of our population has a BHC (British Home Child) in their family tree.
When I began receiving stories for my blog, I realized that many children hid their BHC pasts. My family always knew that my mother’s mother and her two siblings were BHC. I hadn’t considered the fact that most families found this out by accident or research. Because of the stories I received, I began to suspect that my great-grandfather on my father’s side was also BHC. Family folklore has him boarding a ship from Ireland alone, his mother standing on shore waving to him until the ship was out of sight. The last part may be true because we know she was still living in 1871 when he left Ireland. But the traveling alone part is a common story told by BHC.
I talked to my brother, Bill, about this because he’s done extensive research into our family history. He said he didn’t think William McCormick was a BHC. As I heard more stories, my suspicions grew. In the end, it was a simple matter of clicking on a site that I have on my home page at The Promise of Home (http://littleimmigrants.wordpress.com.) There, in the Canadian Library Archives of British Home Children, I found him, age 17, in the care of Rev. Herring, one of the sending agencies. He was part of a group of teenage boys and girls who immigrated in 1871.
This great-grandfather, William McCormick (my father and brother are both named after him), became a Christian. I don’t know how or where this happened. But, he raised his children in a Christian home and filled in as speaker at evangelical meetings. He farmed, worked in a sawmill and was postmaster at Brittainville, Manitoulin Island, for forty-four years. William was one of Island’s pioneers. But it seems he didn’t pass onto his children that he came to Canada as a home boy. In his lifetime, this was a shameful label. Likely, his mother gave permission for him to immigrate to Canada because she felt opportunities awaited him here. And, that proved true. In Ireland, it’s doubtful he would’ve owned property.
It’s important to know what people we belong to and where we come from. One reason? It gives us courage to face our own battles when we know our ancestors faced theirs with bravery. After I posted the story of my BHC grandmother, Grace Griffin Galbraith, my cousin’s daughter, Kimberly, submitted this comment:
I had no idea what Great-Gramdma went through when she was a young child . . . but I am thankful for her being such a strong woman who, no matter what, moved forward with her life and loved her family so very much! She was and still is an inspiration to all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and now great-great-children.
After reading Grace’s story, my daughter Melody, referred to her great-grandmother as a courageous woman. Neither my grandmother or great-grandfather passed along the deadly victim’s mindset. Those who adopt this view of themselves, infect their offspring with a self-piteous excuse for remaining in poverty and failure.
Our courageous ancestors have set the stage for us. Are we, am I, living with courage? Am I using my time, gifts and strength as I should? Am I following the footprints of faith left by others? These words from Paul to Timothy remind us to leave a visible imprint on the path of faith for our offspring:
I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. (2 Timothy 1:5)
Are you leaving a faith footprint for future generations to follow?