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Off on a Tangent with British Home Children
Posted August 13, 2014
By Alan Campbell

Going off on a tangent is a common occurrence in my research endeavours. I enjoy exploring new types of records so finding adopted children living with James Atkey Jr., my great grandfather John's brother, in the 1901 Canada Census for Keppel Township, Grey County, started me off on one of those tangents1. Could the George, born April 30, 1880, and Mary Singleton, born May 2, 1882, listed with James and his wife Ann Jane (Cross), be British Home Children?

A search of the Home Children database on the Library and Archives website, produced two hits, a George Singleton age 8 and a Polly Singleton age 6 who arrived in Quebec City on the ship the Vancouver on July 7, 18882. They appear to be part of a party of 48 children in the charge of Mrs. Evans, Matron, who represented Rev. Dr. Stephenson. Rev. Dr. Stephenson was associated with the National Children's Home in England. The party was bound for Hamilton, Ontario.

National Children's Home, Canadian Branch, Hamilton, Ontario

The name, Polly, set me back until a fellow researcher noted that Polly is a nickname for Mary derived from another nickname for Mary, Molly. Back tracking to the 1891 Canada Census brought more questions as I found a Frank and Cora Atkey listed with James and Ann Jane Atkey3. The ages, 10 and 7, were appropriate to be those of George and Mary. Deciding that potential marriages might answer my questions I searched for them.

Mary Singleton married Thomas Davidson, son of Joseph Davidson and Alice Brown at the home of James and Ann Jane Atkey, Oxenden, 18 April 19014. The section of the marriage registration that requested the names of her parents was filled in with the following statement, "not known, adopted by James Atkey." The newspaper report of the wedding noted her name as Cora Atkey and her brother as Frank Atkey5. So Polly was Mary Cora Singleton or Mary Cora Atkey.

Thomas was a blacksmith in Oxenden and Wiarton, and then took over his father's farm in 1916.

Thomas and Mary Cora Singleton (Atkey) Davidson were the parents of the following children:
  1. Norval Francis Davidson born 3 March 19026, died August 4, 1983.

  2. Wilfred Roy Davidson born 30 December 1903 at Wiarton7, died circa 1987. He married 3 March 1923 at Kemble, Ontario, Frances (Fanny) Pauline Loney, daughter of Hiram Loney and Martha Proctor8.

  3. Anna May Davidson born 23 February 1906 at Wiarton, died 10 January 2005 at Lee Manor Nursing Home, Owen Sound, Ontario.

  4. Thomas Earl Davidson born 18 October 1909 at Wiarton11, died 25 April 1982 at Port Huron, Michigan12. He married 28 September 1932 at Sarnia, Ontario, Lillian Hurst, daughter of William Hurst13.

    Thomas worked for Imperial Oil and at the time of his retirement was a fire chief. Lillian died 24 July 1976 at the General and Marine Hospital in Owen Sound14. Thomas married Nioma Elzira Greenwood.

  5. Arthur date of birth unknown, death date unknown.

  6. Stewart Davidson date of birth unknown, died circa 1968. He married Ivy Jay.

  7. Kenneth Davidson born circa 1923, died circa 1971. He married Dorothy Williams.
George married Phoebe Jane Porter, daughter of Joshua Porter and Bessie Kennedy, on April 15, 1908 at Keppel Township15. In the remarks section of their marriage registration the following notation was written, "The bridegroom is an English immigrant and is commonly known as Francis G. Atkey." So George was Francis [Frank] George Singleton or Francis [Frank] George Atkey.

George [Frank] farmed lot 11, Jones Range, and operated a cement block and tile business. He served as a Sunday School Superintendent for Oxenden Methodist Church and as a member of the school board for SS# 5 Keppel, at Oxenden. He moved to Wiarton after he retired.

George [Frank] and Phoebe (Porter) Atkey were the parents of the following children:
  1. Gordon Francis Atkey born 19 March 1908 at lot 25, CR16, date of death unknown.

  2. Albert Leslie Atkey born 12 January 1911 at Oxenden17, date of death unknown. He married 6 July 1935 at her parent's home in St. Vincent, Harriet Norine McMillan, daughter of Dugald McMillan18.

  3. Elgin Carl Atkey born 29 November 1914, died circa 200119.

  4. Florence Jean Atkey born 8 January 1920, date of death unknown. She married Clifford Jackson.

  5. Stillborn male child 2 November 192520

  6. Female child born 2 November 1925, died 19 November 192521.
With the many stories of abuse of Home Children, I wondered how George and Mary fared. According to a local man's recollections, James and Ann were "kindness itself and gave these children not only a good home but a Christian upbringing22." The success that each child had in later life seems to bear out the truth of the statement.

My preliminary research has taken me this far. Information that does not have a citation is raw data with limited provenance. I would be interested in making contact with other researchers who can help me fill in the gaps.

About Alan Campbell
    Alan enjoys "chasing" the stories of interesting ancestors and sometimes "borrows" ancestors in order to have an excuse to research in different and interesting records. He is presently immersed in World War I and World War II research. Alan also volunteers much time and effort to help fellow family historians. He is currently serving as the President of the Ontario Genealogical Society.

    Alan Campbell
    1044 Guthrie Drive, Sarnia ON N7S 1Y2

    1James Atkey family entries, 1901 Canada Census, Ontario, Grey North, District 65, Keppel Township, Sub-District C-6, 11, lines 2-5, downloaded from, 3 May 2011.

    2George and Polly Singleton database printouts, Library and Archives Home Children 1869-1930 database, downloaded from, 5 May 2011. Passenger list for the Vancouver, arrival 3 July 1888 at Quebec, Canadian Passenger Lists 1865-1935, downloaded from, 5 May 2011.

    3James Atkey family entries, 1891 Canada Census, Ontario, Grey North, District 68, Keppel Township, Sub-District Oxenden, 10, lines 5-8. Library and Archives microfilm reel T-6338, downloaded from, 3 May 2011.

    4Marriage registration for Thomas Davidson and Mary Singleton, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 932, reel 104, registration no. 7472, downloaded from 3 May 2011.

    5Marriage notice for Thomas Davidson and Cora Atkey, Wiarton Echo, 25 April 1901.

    6Birth registration for Norval Francis Davidson, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 929, reel 158, registration no.16063, downloaded from, 1 July 2011.

    7Birth registration for Wilfrid Roy Davidson, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 929, reel 167, registration no.9794 [registered in 1904] , downloaded from, 22 June 2011.

    8Marriage registration for Wilfred Roy Davidson and Fanny Pauline Loney, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 932, reel 649, registration no. 11992, downloaded from, 1 July 2011.

    9Birth registration for Anna May Davidson, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 929, reel 178, registration no. 13389, downloaded from, 22 June 2011.

    10Obituary for Annie May Davidson, Wiarton Echo, 19 January 2005.

    11Birth registration for Thomas Earl Davidson, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 929, reel 3, registration no. 11818, downloaded from, 22 June 2011.

    12Obituary for Thomas Davidson, The Observer [Sarnia], 1 May 1982, 16.

    13Wedding announcement, Davidson-Hurst, The Sarnia Canadian Observer, 6 October 1932, 5.

    14Death notice for Lily Davidson, Sarnia Observer, 26 July 1976, 2.

    15Marriage registration for George Singleton and Phoebe Jane Porter, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 932, reel 134, registration no. 9494, downloaded from, 3 May 2011.

    16Birth registration for Gordon Francis Atkey, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 929, reel 8, registration no. 18719, downloaded from, 3 May 2011.

    17Birth registration for Albert Leslie Atkey, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 929, reel 218, registration no. 20930, downloaded from, 3 May 2011.

    18Marriage notice for Albert Leslie Atkey and Harriet Norine McMillan, Wiarton Echo, 11 July 1935.

    19Thank you notice from the family of the late Elgin Atkey, Wiarton Echo, 19 December 2001.

    20Death registration for stillborn Atkey child, Ontario Vital Statistics microfilm, series MS 935, reel 322, registration no. 8715, downloaded from , 3 May 2011.

    21Death noticed for female Atkey child, Wiarton Echo, 26 November 1925.

    22William G. Cheshire, Wiarton to Big Bay, Colpoy's Range, As remembered by William G. Cheshire, (Wiarton, Ontario: Wiarton Indexing and Mapping, 1974), 6. The copy that I accessed is held at the Owen Sound Library.

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