Here's the story:
In 1912 my great-grandmother Caroline died in England. Upon her death, her three children were taken from their home and sent to an orphanage. My grandmother, Rose who was eight years old at the time never knew why she was taken from her father, William. She never saw him again.
My family learned the rest of the story when another of William’s great-granddaughters connected with us via Ancestry.com. We discovered that he married another woman after Caroline died and they had eight children.
The story of William having three kids with a previous wife and about her thinking him an unsuitable parent was a story passed around through the generations. Caroline became very ill. She knew she was dying and she felt her husband was too volatile a man to raise their three children alone. She made arrangements with a Catholic nun to take the children upon her death and hide them from her husband in an orphanage.
The timing was fortuitous as the kids likely passed as Barnardo Children. Thomas Barnardo founded homes for poor orphans and sent many of them to new homes in Canada. We don’t know how William learned of this subterfuge or if he ever tried to find his kids. We don’t think he knew that his children were eventually put on a ship, The Corsican, and sent overseas.
Upon arrival in Canada, the kids were split up, each going to different farms in southern Quebec. The middle child, a boy named after his father was sent to live hundreds of miles from his two sisters. My grandmother believed that her brother went back to England, joined the armed forces and was killed during the First World War. The two sisters kept in touch and eventually settled in the same community. My great-aunt, Mae had a son and she and her husband moved to California to live with him when he grew up.
My grandmother stayed on in Canada where she had married a first generation Canadian descendent of Irish parents. My grandfather, a farmer, liked to drink and that’s what he did from the moment the money came in from the crops in the fall until the money ran out in the spring. It meant my grandmother had to raise their five kids and manage the farm on her own for most of the year. They had a herd of milking cows as well. It must have been a very hard life.
Just before I was born she did something practically unheard of in those days, she took her only child still at home, a teenage daughter and she left my grandfather and moved to a nearby city where she got a job cleaning in a hospital.
She died twenty years later without ever knowing her father had not voluntarily given her up.