Home Child Descendant Exaggeration

A recent BBC article included the sentence: “An estimated 10% of Canada’s population – around 4 million people – are descendants of the British Home Children.”

That’s a figure that is challenging to estimate. But it isn’t difficult to show how outlandish that 10% is.

Census Perspective

The population of Canada in 1869, the year that Maria Susan Rye brought the first party of children to Canada, was about 3.6 million. Canada’s population in 2024 is about 40 million. This means that the population increased by a factor of 11.11 over 155 years.

Assume that 100,000 arrived in 1869, the top of the range quoted in the British Home Children Registry for the total of those who came pre-WW2. Multiplying 100,000 by 11.11 produces an estimate of 1.1 million, or 2.75% of the present population.

This is an overestimate as not only did all children not arrive in 1869, but the total  population increased more by immigration than natural growth. 

All Home Children and All Descendants

Take 100,000 arrivals in 1869, but assume the death rate set to zero. That counts all the original home child immigrants and all their descendants, with births continuing to parents regardless of their age. Using crude birth rate stats, I chose those published by Barry Edmonston, Canadian Studies in Population 41, No. 1–2 (Spring/Summer 2014):1–37, the total is 3,340,000. That’s 8.35% of Canada’s current population, still less than 10%.

Making the best estimate

These two scenarios show that 10% is outside the range of possibilities.To make a best estimate would require statistics on the number of children arriving in each age range year-by-year, the number leaving Canada by age year-by-year, and statistics for birth and death rates by age in Canada, back to 1869, year-by-year.  Such stats don’t exist.

Even the total number of home children arriving is uncertain, quoted as anything from 80,000 to 130,000.

As regard the 10% claim, I’m remined of the quote attributed to Joseph Goebbels,  “Repeat a lie often enough, and it becomes the truth.”

4 Replies to “Home Child Descendant Exaggeration”

  1. I’ve always wondered about that statistic. The Maria Rye Home in Niagara-on-the-Lake was called Our Western Home. Rye Street in NOTL is named after her, naturally.

    Good thing you understand statistics better than most of us.

  2. Interesting indeed…passing this to my retired journalist husband for a read as well…

    It’s interesting how we THINK we know something and use that “knowledge” without actually checking it’s true. I’ve been caught out by that before, but generally at the checking stage…

  3. My children and my step children are all descended from Home Children. My late first wife’s grandfather was brought out to Canada in 1872 by Maria Rye. I canot give a completely accurate count on the number of living descendants he has but it is at least 83. Most live in Canada, but one family of three live in Switzeralnd and th elast I heard another family live in California. My presenr wife’s father was brought out to Nova Scotia by Middlemore Homes in 1903. His present living descendants at present number 8, but there is soon to be one more. It would be interesting if others could give a count od known Home Children descendants. It might challenge the wroter of the article.

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