Monday, 26 May 2014

What about the Children?

All of us who have children worried when they were young about who would look after them if something happened to us, the parents. These days it is a less likely scenario than in our ancestor’s time.

In Britain when a father or widow died leaving minor children, relatives usually took in the children. Sometimes the court appointed a guardian or curator to look after the children’s interests until they were 21. If a child was under marriageable age (12 for girls and 14 for boys), guardianship was called "tuition." If the child was of marriageable age but under 21, it was called "curation." See Court of Wards and Liveries.

In Quebec when one parent died there was often someone appointed to look after the interests of the children of the marriage, especially if the widow(er) wanted to marry.  Some of these records are online at BANQ (link below) with images of the actual documents (in French). See instructions at the end.

In the 1800’s society didn’t know what to do with all the orphans running the streets or overflowing the orphanages, so they came up with a plan to farm them out – literally.  To ship them to farm families to help with the work. There are several websites that tell of the plight of these children.

I also found a couple of books you might enjoy. One is a book on child rearing from 1748.  The other is a book of children stories, that teach a lesson, from 1800.  There are 6 Volumes in the series.

Relevant Links:

Orphan Train Info – Children’s Aid Society

The Duplessis Orphans (no database, most still living)

Delaware Orphan Court Records, 1680-1978 (Browse)

A modern plan upon which the minds and manners of youth may be formed - 1748

Quebec Court Records – Guardianships (see instructions below)

Note: To do a search in Quebec guardianship records at Banq, type in the word Tutelle and the surname.  Click on any of the results and at the top right click “Voir les images” and it has the number of pages. To download the images go to the icons at top of the page. There is a red X (close), then the print button, then the download (Téléchargement) button, then the Référence button, which when clicked gives you the source. 


  1. I have some catching up to do with your blog and will when I head clears. Looking like great reading is in store for me.

    1. Welcome back Cathern. Hope you find some little tidbits that help you understand your ancestors.
      Feel better soon!


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