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Prince George Citizen Interviews Sean Arthur Joyce

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Filed under: News

What was done in desperate English times with the best of intentions created a legacy of painful Canadian question marks. They are the so-called Home Children and their descendants.

A new book by one of those descendants is calling his peers out into conversation. Sean Arthur Joyce has become a genealogy sleuth and family history detective in the search for his own personal background, and he wrote his experiences into Laying the Children's Ghosts to Rest.

"These were kids in orphanages in the U.K. or the children of unwed mothers, or poor families that had limited chances in life with a child, so these kids were sent to the colonies to families they recruited in Canada and Australia especially," said Joyce.

Between 1869 and 1948, about 100,000 such children, from babies to teenagers, were dispatched to Canada. The laws and social thinking of the day were that the records of these disconnected children should be sealed, if there were any records at all. Church organizations were often the intermediaries, adding another level of bureaucracy and shroud to anyone attempting to seek out information later.

And seek they did.

"My grandfather Ceril William Joyce was sent over by the Church of England in 1926," said Joyce. "Luckily he was already 16 when he arrived so he only had to serve three years, working on northern Alberta farms as his indenturement until he turned legal age."

If this scenario sounded more like a prison sentence than loving domestic arms, it's because that was the case in a great many of these orphan intakes. The Canadian homes agreed to these children out of a desire for the love of children in some cases, but just as many were interested in the slave farm labour. Some were even interested in acting out abuse on these boys and girls who had no one looking out for them once they were deposited on the doorstep.

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