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Child Emigration from Britain - New Zealand

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Child emigration was undertaken by religious and charitable organisations. One of the earliest of these being The Children's Friend Society founded in London in 1830, as the Society for the Suppression of Juvenile Vagrancy, through the reformation and emigration of children. In 1832 the first party of children were sent to the Cape of Good Hope and Swan River Colony in Australia.

Home Children is a common term used to refer to the child migration scheme founded by Annie MacPherson in 1869, under which more than 100,000 children were sent to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa from the United Kingdom.

Emigration to New Zealand did not really begin until the 1840s when it became a British Colony. This was because New Zealand had never been a penal colony and had only been settled by Europeans in the 1820s. Immigration schemes began in 1840. The British Colonial politician, E.G. Wakefield, manager of the New Zealand Company (1839-1849) was opposed to offering free land to settlers, so instead advocated that land should be sold and the profits used to finance emigrants, to obtain labourers, who would have their passage paid for in return for their labour. (He had previously instigated this scheme in Australia a decade earlier.) Land was aggressively purchased from the Maoris to sell to the settlers, resulting in a number of wars between the settlers and the natives. Emigration escalated in 1861 with the discovery of gold, with New Zealand's population rocketing from 99,000 in 1861 to 256,000 in 1871.

After the Second World War many thousands of children, predominantly English, were taken from institutions and foster homes and sent out to the white commonwealth. Between 1949 and 1953, 593 were sent to New Zealand. In the 1990s moves began to assist the former child migrants to rediscover their English families. Here we see some of the first arrivals learning of the arrangements made for them by the Child Welfare Department.

From the 1870s onwards, a large number of public work projects to build roads and railways, required labourers who were mainly recruited in England and Northern Europe. They were given assisted passage, with as many as 46,000 arriving in 1874 alone. Immigration continued in lesser numbers until the economic depression in the 1890s and World War I. Travel subsidies were still available between both the wars and after Word War II into the 1960s, when a more cautious, limited immigration assistance was offered mainly to British subjects. Many emigrants to New Zealand travelled via Australia, so Australian records may be of assistance for research.

There were a number of organisations responsible for the emigration such as: Barnardo’s, Annie Macpherson, Maria Rye, Fegan Homes, Dr. Stephenson and the National Children’s Home.

The object of this project is to identify any child emigrants whose family histories have been added to Geni and link them to the list below.

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Augustine Felkins went to New Zealand, sailing from Southampton on Nov 5, 1926 on the ship Mataroa. He is listed as 17 years of age and from 45 Meadowbank Cottages. He is travelling with a group of young men all about his age and they are all listed as farmers.


















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The records cover 140 years of New Zealand's history from 1842-1981 from the six major historical collections - the New Zealand Electoral Rolls 1853-1981, Canterbury Provincial Rolls 1868-1874, Jury Lists 1842-1862, Maori Voter and Electoral Rolls 1908 and 1919, Maori Land Claims 1858-1980 and New Zealand Naturalisations 1843-1981.

All the collections are available on