Catholic Records, Home Children

William Charles Burton: Home Child

[Note: I’m having trouble combining MT blog software with numbered footnote citations. For the moment, I’m inclined to take the easy way out: if there are more than one or two citations per blog entry, no numbered footnotes, just astericks, and references minimized, out of laziness and/or frustration. The census data, both English and Canadian, via].

William Charles Burton was born in England about 1882 and came to Canada in the 1890s (possibly 1898) as a Home Child. Several records describe him as a “Barnardo Boy.”

In the 1891 English census, there is a William C. Burton found in the village of Cheddar, Somerset, in the household of George Wall (occupation: Market Gardener) and his wife Susan (occupation: Caretaker of Children), along with another orphan, Fred W.G. Owen. Fred Owen’s age is given as 10, and William C. Burton’s age as 8; both boys are listed as Boarders and Scholars (i.e., they are said to be attending school), and both are said to be “From Dr. Barnardo’s Home, Birthplace unknown.” I’d say there’s a very good chance that this is the William Charles Burton who ended up in Renfrew Co., Ontario, Canada.

In the 1901 Canadian census (Ontario, Renfrew South, Hagarty, Sherwood and Jones, Family Number 104, pp. 12-13) William Burton, age 18, born England, “Adopted Son” and farm labourer, is found in the household of Herman Hartwick, a farmer of German origin. Herman Hartwick’s religion is listed as Baptist, his wife Lizzie’s as Lutheran, and the Hartwick children’s as Baptist. William Burton’s religion is listed as Episcopalian (i.e., Anglican).

By 1903, William Burton had apparently been “adopted” by an elderly Irish couple, Bernard Kelly and Margaret Lavelle,* and had decided to convert to Roman Catholicism. The parish register for Our Lady of the Angels Church in Brudenell, Renfrew Co. contains the record of his conversion (and there is something unspeakably poignant, of course, in reading that this orphaned lad, who had already known three households at the very least, was now “absolved” of his “heresy”):

PF [Profession of Faith] 4. Wm Burton.

June 21st. This twenty first day of June nineteen hundred & three We the undersigned received the Profession of Faith of William Burton aged twenty years — adopted son of Bernard Kelly & Margaret Lavelle & absolved him from heresy. Francis L. French PP.

B [Baptism] 16. Wm Burton.

June 21st. This twenty first day of June nineteen hundred & three We the undersigned baptized William Charles Burton born on the thirtieth day of November eighteen hundred and eighty two — a Bernardo orphan adopted by Bernard Kelly. The sponsors were Mrs. Bernard Kelly & Joseph Green. Francis L. French PP.**

Bernard Kelly died in 1906. In the 1911 census, his widow Margaret is found in the household of Austin Lavelle (probably her nephew) and his wife Bridget O’Hara, along with her son-in-law Thomas O’Hara and her daughter Biddie O’Hara (Bridget Kelly, who married Thomas O’Hara). Somewhat confusingly, Thomas O’Hara, wife of Bridget Kelly, is the father of Bridget O’Hara Lavelle, wife of Austin. To add to the confusion, there is another Home Child in this household: Francis [should be Frances] Lavelle, female, age 10, adopted, born July 1900, birthplace England, year of immigration 1907. There is no sign of William Charles Burton in this household.

William Charles Burton died at Pembroke General Hospital on 18 November 1924, apparently of a “Malignant disease of Bladder.” His Ontario civil death record describes him as a single male of English origin who “Emigrated from Orphanage in England” and whose parents are “not known.” The death informant was M.J. Neville of J. Neville & Sons Undertakers. Burial place was listed as Killaloe [Renfrew Co.], Ontario.

*Bernard Kelly was born about 1794 at Co. Sligo, and emigrated to Canada in the late 1830s, with his wife Margaret Lavelle (born Co. Mayo). He died 20 May 1906 and was buried 22 May “aged one hundred and seven.” An obituary in the Eganville Mercury claimed that he “remembered the Battle of Waterloo.” Margaret Lavelle died 25 Oct 1914 and was buried 28 Oct at St. Mary’s Cemetery.

**Our Lady of the Angels Roman Catholic Church (Brudenell, Ontario), Register of Baptisms and Marriages, 1896-1923, p. 213, Wm Burton PF 4 and Wm Burton B 16, database, ( accessed 14 April 2010), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967.