Although there was some voluntary emigration to Canada in the 1830s and 1840s, many of those who went were forced to or assisted by the Parish or local property owners who paid the costs involved. This article focuses on South Northamptonshire but could just as easily relate to other areas of the county.

In Marston St Lawrence the Vestry Book of 1836 shows the sale of nine cottages to pay for three families and two single men to emigrate to America. This was followed by further sales in 1843 to assist four families and in 1844 the parish borrowed £70 to assist 17 persons to emigrate to Canada.

In theory the Poor Law Commissioners (PLC) had to give approval to parishes wishing to ‘assist those desirous of emigrating’ – a parish could not just hive off a family it no longer wanted to support. Marston parish had failed to obtain approval and so had to bear the costs themselves.

In 1844, Brackley parish obtained an order from the PLC to several poor persons to be assisted to go to Montreal and Messrs John Marshall & Co were contracted to provide the passage for 35 persons who sailed on the ship St George and arrived in Canada at the end of August. There is a lot of information in the Guardians Minute Books for Brackley Union covering emigration for this period.

In 1845 Eydon parish gained permission from the Poor Law Commissioners to borrow £100 and they set up a Parish Emigration Fund Account. A contract was entered into between the Union and the shipping agents, Carter & Bonus, to convey the emigrants to Montreal and the first half of the passage money was paid. The parish also paid the costs of travel to the port and for clothing and utensils for the journey. The other half was paid when Carter & Bonus certified the safe arrival of the passengers. Amongst those travelling were members of the Dodd, Robinson, Cox and Amos families who sailed on SS Canton on 26 March 1845. Once one parish saw that this was (to them anyway) a more economical way to remove paupers and reduce poor relief expenditure, others parishes followed suit.

This part of the county was, and to a point still is, dependant on agriculture. Additionally, the local clergy in that area were supportive of emigration and did much to promote this. Within the same period Ayhno parish assisted 100 people to leave through the financial assistance of the Cartwright family, the largest landowner in that corner of the county and thus the largest contributors to the poor law rate.

Once in Canada, emigrants needed to find somewhere to live and employment. In a report in 1852, the chief agent at the Emigration Office in Quebec stated “all settlers who are assisted to emigrate by the Unions or their landlords should be sent out early in the season so as to reach here before or during the harvest when work is plenty…. Should also be decently clothed and furnished with funds to enable them to proceed from Quebec to where they wish to settle. Large numbers have reached Quebec penniless and destitute of clothing and beddings and after the weather has become cold many in this condition are obliged to undertake a journey of many hundred miles dependent upon casual charity”

Focussing on one family:
William and Ann Willoughby were married at Badby in 1828 and appear in the 1841 census for Eydon. William was aged 41, ag lab, Ann 39 and with them were six children. Two of the children subsequently died and a further three were born after the census.

In March 1847 it was recorded that Ann Willoughby aged 45, whose husband had deserted her and her 7 surviving children, received 19s 6d for a quarter’s out-relief. The family also spent 14 days in Brackley workhouse. In December 1847, it was noted that the family had spent a further 55 days in the workhouse.

In early 1849 amongst the Eydon parish records is a document showing the calculations that to continue to keep the family in the Workhouse would cost £41.13s 4d a year whereas the one off cost of sending them to Canada was £62.10s. It is annotated with “Agreed to raise money to enable Ann Willoughby & her family to emigrate to join her husband in Canada.” Although the previous record states that William had deserted his family, it is obvious that it was known he was in Canada.

contractticketA Contract ticket was purchased for Ann and her children Urania (baptised as Kezia) 18, Sophia 17, George 13, Sarah 10, Martin 7, Susannah 5 and Noah 3 to sail from Southampton on 10 May 1849 on SS William Bromham. The cost was £35.15.0.

The journey took 6 weeks so whether Ann actually met up again with William is not known as sadly he was buried on 14 July 1849 in Toronto, Ontario aged 48 in the Potters Field Cemetery in York, Ontario.

Ann and her family settled into York although it has not been possible to find them in the 1861 Canadian census. In 1871 Ann can be found living with her son Martin. She died 27 April 1880 at Yorkville, York, Ontario aged 79 of old age. One hopes that she and her family enjoyed a better quality of life than they would have done if they had stayed in Brackley Workhouse. (images © Northamptonshire Archives)