Tag Archives: children’s homes

#UnplannedPregnancy #Adoption ‘Shadow Baby’ by Margaret Forster

A slow-build read which, by halfway, Shadow Baby by Margaret Forster had me glued to the page. It is in part a story about unplanned pregnancy – choices, motherhood and how a girl grows to be a mother herself – and part social history. The history is the skeleton on which the flesh of the story hangs and inter-connects.

Margaret ForsterTwo young women fall pregnant, Leah in 1887 and Hazel in 1956. Both abandon their babies. Shadow Baby is the story of Leah and her daughter Evie, Hazel and her daughter Shona. The circumstances are different – Evie is brought up first in a children’s home and then by reluctant relatives; Shona is adopted by a family desperate for a child with a mother whose care is suffocating – but the stories so similar. Both daughters are obsessed with their birth mothers.

From generation to generation, mistakes are uncannily mirrored. Attitudes from the 19thcentury reappear in the 20th. Shadow Baby is a thoughtful and measured exploration of how the nature of being a mother differs from woman to woman, expectations, fears, well-meaning but hurtful family and social pressure. And how, when the daughter grows into a woman who in turn becomes pregnant, the same fears, expectations and social pressures kick in. Forster is perceptive about the rejection felt by the daughters, and the shame of their mothers, shame which prompts denial and continued rejection. These women have to make hard decisions to survive, decisions a million miles away from how we live today in our comfortable 21st century lives but with a stark reminder of how the actions of a previous generation can affect the next.
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If you like this genealogy mystery, try:-
Run’ by Ann Patchett
Innocent Blood’ by PD James
Beside Myself’ by Ann Morgan 

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
#UnplannedPregnancy #Adoption SHADOW BABY by Margaret Forster https://wp.me/paZ3MX-5H via #AdoptionStoriesBlog

Researching children’s homes #foundlings #orphans

Lost children weren’t always adopted, as happens to Rose Haldane in Ignoring Gravity. If she had been born a century earlier, she may have been taken to one of many children’s homes in London. In 1739 London’s Foundling Hospital opened, a basket placed at its door to allow infants to be left anonymously. In the late 19thcentury poverty in London’s East End was notorious and this is where, in 1866, Thomas Barnardo established his first boys’ home. Lampson House Home for Girls [below] opened in London in 1894. If you are tracing a relative who was in a children’s home, the records may be held in a variety of places.

Lampson House

Lampson House Home for Girls, London 1894 [photo: hiddenlives.org.uk]

Most children’s homes were privately run so the survival of documentation is inconsistent, records identifying individuals are widely held closed for 100 years. A useful website is The Children’s Homes which lists the location of existing records for many former homes. Other records which give an insight into lifestyle conditions [below] in children’s homes – such as reports of inspections, dietary diaries – can be found at the National Archives.

Records for workhouses can be found in the appropriate county/metropolitan record office where you may also find records for workhouses taken over by the local council, and for later council-run homes dating up until the 1980s.

If your relative disappears from the records, it is possible that the child was moved on. An institution only had so many places, so in order to accommodate new arrivals some of the existing inmates were boarded out/fostered or have emigrated. If the child was older, it is possible he/she trained for an occupation. Below are girls in the sewing room of a children’s home, in 1900.

Sewing room, children's home 1900

Sewing room 1900 [photo: hiddenlives.org.uk]

This post was inspired by the article ’Focus on Children’s Homes’ in the February 2016 issue of the UK’s Who Do You Think You Are? magazine.

For more articles about researching family records, try:-
How #adoption became a legal process #UK
The #paternity question
Commonwealth War #Graves Commission 

family history

 

When Rose Haldane starts to research the story of her own adoption in Ignoring Gravity, the private nature of her adoption means available records are minimal, so she applies to see a counsellor. First in the ‘Identity Detective’ series. BUY THE BOOK

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Researching children’s homes #foundlings #orphans https://wp.me/paZ3MX-6q via #AdoptionStoriesBlog