Whatever happened to Lucy?

Newbury Branch meeting Wednesday 13 September 2017

Speaker: Ian Waller

Lucy represents all those luckless children who were in some way unwanted, because of being illegitimate or just being one more mouth to feed when there were already too many. Victorian values held that the disgrace of illegitimacy would force the girl to leave her family or position, and try to find a way of supporting herself and her child. She might resort to a “baby farmer”, who would look after her baby for a fee (often quite large) but of course many died, by fair means or foul. She might present herself at the door of one of the charities operating through the last two or three centuries, but there was no certainty of help there. She might even sell her baby; some were openly advertised, up to the 1920s.

For family historians searching for children born into these circumstances there can be difficulty in tracing them. Charities such as Thomas Coram or Barnardos have extensive records, but in most cases entry to these organisations meant a change of name to make a clean start in the system. If formal adoption was undertaken, usually only the adoptee would eventually be able to access the natural birth record, and trace their birth parent(s).

Older children would often be trained in a career of some sort, such as training ships via the marine society. There was also a system of child migration, ostensibly for a new life, from 1619 to 1967. This was often implemented without the consent of child or parent. Some children in care over WW2 were sent to “new lives” in Canada, and many of their parents were unable to afford to repatriate them after the war.

Despite its length and complexity, this talk was of great interest.

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