Digitising emigration books

It’s been an exciting day here at the Together Trust Archive. We’ve gone digital! One of our most viewed group of documents within our extensive collection include our large leather-bound emigration books. These run from 1883 to 1914 and record all of the children who were emigrated to Marchmont our Receiving Home in Canada during this time. Each child was allocated a page within one of the books. Any reports or correspondence sent back to the Charity was glued into the book. Although they provide a wealth of information on what life was like in Canada, they are also a conservator’s nightmare!

One of our emigration books

Every child under the age of 18 who had been emigrated to Canada by the Refuge was visited at least once a year by a Committee member. These reports were then sent back to Manchester and glued one on top of the other on the child’s allocated page. Not only did this make the earlier reports or letters difficult to read but the brittleness of the pages and degrading of the leather binding, meant the books were becoming more and more fragile. It was argued that the books should be put away to ensure no more damage was done by handling. But this of course meant that wealth of information would no longer be available. How could we continue to access the books in the knowledge that every time they were handled more and more stress was being put on the material?

Documents stuck one on top of the other in our emigration books

Luckily we were offered another option! Our heroes have come in the form of a well known organisation that work in the sphere of archives and spend most of their time helping to provide access to archival material – Ancestry. The organisation has spent many hours using their specialist equipment to take an image of every document contained in our 11 emigration books. With around 150 pages per book and up to 15 images per page, this turned out to be a lot of photographs! They are now safely held on a hard drive waiting to be indexed and used. Not only can we now provide images to ancestors of children who emigrated (previously images I took were often blurred and contained half of my finger!) but it also allows the Together Trust to see all of the material in one place, without any fear of damaging the documents. Hopefully research and comparison of the documents will help the Charity to better understand this section of its history, safe in the knowledge that the records will now be preserved for years to come.

A huge thank you to Ancestry for making this possible!


  1. Does that mean the images will be appearing on the Ancestry site soon?

    1. Hi,

      Unfortunately the images will not be going on the Ancestry site at present. Although the books are past one hundred years old the content is too sensitive for us to put in the public domain. We still have a duty of care to all those who were emigrated through us.This may change in the future if we get the chance to edit the documents but for now they were digitised for preservation reasons rather than access. We are happy to produce copies to direct families of any children emigrated through the charity however. You just need to contact us through our website.

  2. Wow, I'm so glad you've made this blog! Not only is it informative and interesting, I now have another shot at finding the records for my husband's grandfather! Awesome! Thank you!


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