Macpherson Home, Knowlton, Quebec, Canada

Opened in 1872, the distributing home in Knowlton, Quebec, was the third to be set up in Canada by Miss Annie Macpherson for the initial accommodation of children emigrating from Britain. The previous two were in Ontario at Belleville (1870) and Galt (1871). The children brought over by Miss Macpherson came from her own Home of Industry in East London, and also from other agencies for homeless children such as Barnardo's.

Annie Macpherson. © Peter Higginbotham

Miss Macpherson's Home of Industry, Spitalfields. © Peter Higginbotham

The Knowlton home was in an attractive rural setting at the head of a lake and the mouth of a glen.

The Knowlton Home. © Peter Higginbotham

The Knowlton home was initially run by Miss Emma Barber who had assisted Miss Macpherson in the running of the London Home of Industry.

Emma Barber. © Peter Higginbotham

Miss Macpherson's normal practice was to bring children to Canada in parties of 150, with fifty going to each of her three homes. In 1877, however, she decided that she could use the Galt home for the whole of each party. The Knowlton home was then handed over to her sister, Mrs Louisa Birt, who ran the Liverpool Sheltering Home. Mrs Birt appointed Elizabeth Meiklejohn, the daughter of a Quebec banker, as the new superintendent of the home, a post in which she was to remain for twenty-six years.

Elizabeth Meiklejohn. © Peter Higginbotham

As well as the Liverpool Sheltering Home itself, Birt's emigration parties also eventually included children from other Liverpool establishments such as workhouses and industrial schools.

In 1910, Louisa Birt made her final visit to Knowlton. With her advancing years and declining health, her work in Liverpool was taken over by her daughter Lilian Birt. The fabric of the Knowlton home was also declining and in need of refurbishment. In February 1913, a fire at the property resulted in that year's emigration parties having to use temporary accommodation on Montreal. The outbreak of the First World War brought emigration to a halt and in September 1915, a few month's after Louisa Birt's death, it was decided to close the Knowlton home and merge its operation with another Macpherson home in Stratford, Ontario.

Records

Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.

  • Records for the homes run by Annie Macpherson were inherited by Barnardo's (see below). These include:
    • Home of Industry, Spitalfields: History books, register and emigrant register (1870-1924)
    • Annie Macpherson Home, Stratford, Ontario: Register and history books of children sent to Canada (1871-1915)
    • Marchmont Homes, Canada: History books and lists (1870-1914)
  • Barnardo's Family History Service deals with enquiries regarding records of individual children — various services are available costing from £25 upwards.
  • Making Connections — a service for those wishing to access their Barnardo's adoption records.
  • Barnardo's historical administrative records are now deposited with Liverpool University's Social Welfare Archives with stringent restrictions on their access.

Bibliography