Monday, 11 April 2016

Young Roots: Getting to know our new orphans

As promised, this week’s blog will be concentrating on our young roots project ‘Deep Pockets and Dirty Faces’, bringing our readers up to date with some of the work that has been completed so far. The project is based around the history of the Together Trust, concentrating particularly on the charity’s Victorian roots. Young people receiving services from the Together Trust today have been learning about these children from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s, with the aim of bringing their stories to life. 

One of the orphans stories to be researched

The core group of young people working on the project have all been given case files on real life stories of some of the children who were admitted to the Manchester Refuges and emigrated across to Canada between 1870 and 1920. It cost around £10 - £12 to emigrate a child to Canada and the charity would request sponsorship from the local community to fund the service. In return the sponsor would receive the name, photograph and history of the child. We’ve taken inspiration from this to set the scene for our own project. As modern day ‘sponsors’ of their orphans, the young people have also been given their name, photograph and history and immersed themselves in their lives through a 'sponsor pack'. The aim is to add details to this pack to tell the individual stories of the orphans' journeys from the streets of Manchester to life in Canada.  

Advert asking for sponsors, 1896
This was very similar to the donators at the time who wanted to feel a connection with those children they sponsored:

“I am willing to provide for an orphan boy or girl whom you intend to send to Canada, and will send you the £10 for this purpose whenever required. I would like to see him before he goes and then to correspond and continue to take an interest in him” – Letter from the Children’s Haven, December 1895.

Handling session
The young people have also been getting hands on with original material from the Together Trust archive. A handling session with the charity’s, Archivist allowed them to search for their orphan in the original admission books and learn how to handle and care for the archive. Utilising the charity’s fantastic collection was a chance for the young people to discover more about their orphan in a practical way and allow history to come to life. As well as having to interpret handwriting of old it also stimulated questions around the age of the book, who would have written in it and how much it was worth! Something that a picture and text would never be able to do. As the young people left for the day some requested to take their orphan file home with them. A connection and ‘roots’ have already begun.


  1. I am reading this with great interest as my Grandfather was one of these children that came to Canada as an orphan from Preston. I have been lucky enough to be able to obtain his records from your Archives. However, in reading this article I see that there were pictures and other documents that I did not get. How would I go about seeing if there are any such items still available? Thanks

  2. Hi Linda,

    I'll send you an email in regards to this in case there are any records we've missed. Glad you liked the article.

  3. I do! This looks like an amazing exercise for anyone. I bet these young ones have a better picture of history


Like to know more about a certain home or period in the Together Trust's history? Why not comment and let us know.