How to access the Middlemore Archives

1. How to use the Wolfson Centre for archival research.

The Wolfson Centre in Birmingham Central Library  is on the 4th floor and is the search room for archival collections, photographs &  early printed material.

 It is open to the public free of charge.

 Appointments are essential and material should be ordered in advance by emailing It may take up to a week before you receive a response, so please allow sufficient time in your request.

 Please check the Archival Catalogue online under Birmingham Library for catalogue references to order in advance of your visit.

 On arrival, please sign the visitors’ book and deposit coats and bags into a free locker.

2. All visitors to the Wolfson Centre are required to bring identification with them so they can sign up fpr a CARN Card if they do not already have one.

The County Archives Research Network (CARN) is a national network of record offices that share one standard ticket system. When you get a reader’s ticket you can use it at any of the other offices that are part of the CARN network.

To be able to request and consult original material you will need a CARN ticket

  Wolfson Centre Opening Hours

  • Tuesday: 11am to 7pm
  • Wednesday and Thursday: 11am to 4:30pm

3. The Heritage Research Area

Here you can access printed local and family history, genealogy, maps, local newspapers and Directories.

Available during the following hours:

            Mon and Tues: 11am to 7pm. Weds to Sat  11am to 5pm

 Planned closure week for the whole Library:

Closed from Monday 23 December 2019, reopening Tuesday 31 December 2019

4. Records deposited by the Middlemore Charitable Trust   MS 517/A

MS 517/A/1 Annual reports, 1873 – 2005

MS 517/A/2 Records of the Management Committee, 1896 – 1966

MS 517/A/3 Records of the House Committee, 1921 – 1973

MS 517/A/4 Records re the daily running of the Homes, 1939 – 1968

MS 517/A/5 Secretary’s correspondence and papers, 1904 – 1974

MS 517/A/6 Correspondence and papers of Paul Cadbury in connection with the Middlemore Homes,1925 –1967

MS 517/A/7 Financial records,1904 – 1969

MS 517/A/8 Records re to child emigration cases,1873 – c1954

. MS 517/A/10 Staff and employment records

MS 517/A/11 Premises and property record, 1880 – 1971

MS 517/A/12 Public relations records, 1925 – 1972

MS 517/A/13 Printed material, 1872 – 1962

MS 517/A/14 Photographs, late 19th century – late 20th century

MS 517/A/15 Miscellaneous re the Homes, late 19th century – 1968

5. Ms 517/A/ 1     Annual Reports

Small hardcover books containing information about the agency, its policy, finances and activities. Until 1916, the Reports also contain descriptions of the voyages to Canada and the settlement process of the emigration parties.

Short background descriptions of some of the children admitted to the Homes during the year preceding emigration were usually included, as well as comparisons of the condition of children at their time of entry and after several months spent in the Homes in Birmingham or after several years in Canada

 Also included were children’s letters and a limited number of photographs.

6. MS 517/A/2 Records of the Management Committee, 1896 – 1966
     MS 517/A/3 Records of the House Committee, 1921 – 1973

The earliest Homes Committee Minutes start in 1893 and are organised by date. The Homes Committee was equivalent to a board of governors.

Amid the major management issues dealt with by the Homes Committee, there are references to children,  with a few mentioned by name. They tend to be children who had difficulties; for example,  children returned   “ with cause” to England

7. MS 517/A/5 Secretary’s correspondence and papers, 1904 – 1974

Correspondence was frequent between the Middlemore secretary in Birmingham and the Canadian superintendents

Correspondence originating in Birmingham:

 The earliest extant correspondence from Birmingham dates from 1904. Until 1924, it was mostly written by George Jackson, at which time he was replaced as secretary by Robert Plenderleith.  Included are letters to the guardians of various workhouse unions who sent children with a Middlemore party for settlement in Canada. Some letters concern a single child.  

Correspondence originating in Canada

The earliest extant correspondence originating from Canada dates from 1916. This correspondence from the Canadian Superintendent William S. Ray was voluminous.   It dealt mostly with children, but also with management issues and political changes that affected the policies and activities of the Children’s Emigration Homes.

8.MS 517/A/8 Records relating to child emigration cases,  1873 – c1954

MS517 A/8/1 Application Books

The application books contain brief entries for children considered for admission to the Children’s Emigration Home. Information about the child is handwritten alongside printed headings. The exact printed headings vary slightly in each book, but entries typically include details about the child’s parents, family circumstances and details of whether or not the child was admitted to the homes. The volumes are arranged chronologically and are not indexed.

MS 517/A/8/2   Admission registers   1873 – 1954

The volumes in these sequence record children entering the Children’s Emigration Homes in Birmingham. The volumes are arranged chronologically and are not indexed

MS 517/A/8/3   Parent’s consent forms and custody orders  1912 – 1925

This series contains consent forms signed by parents or guardians of children, approving the child’s emigration to Canada and transferring guardianship to John T. Middlemore. The series also contains a number of custody orders issued by the City of Birmingham Magistrates’ Court placing children in the care of the homes..

MS 517/A/8/4  History books   1873 – 1891

The ‘History books’ in this series were created in Canada by managers acting for the Children’s Emigration Homes. The books record brief details of each child sent to Canada, including details of the names and addresses of employers or families the child was settled with.

 The volumes include some cross-references to a sequence of ‘Settlement and Report Books’ which can be found catalogued at MS 517/A/8/5.>   Each ‘History book’ is arranged chronologically with an alphabetical surname index at the front. The books contain some notes and correspondence relating to particular children, pasted or inserted loose into the book.

MS 517/A/8/5 Settlement papers and reports of children emigrated to Canada and Australia

This series contains settlement papers for children emigrated by the Middlemore Homes to Canada and later to Australia. The papers typically comprise agreements signed by the families or employers with whom each child was settled and reports made of visits to check on the care and behaviour of the child once settled with a family or employer.. Between 1873 and 1897 the papers have been pasted into aseries of large volumes, each with alphabetical index at the front. These books were created in Canada by staff at the Guthrie Home.

 After 1897, the settlement papers and reports are stored in bundles, arranged by year the child was emigrated. The papers relating to each child have been placed in a separate file, although the original bundle order has been maintained.

Request a file by name of child and year emigrated.

9. Closure of documents

 All material in MS 517/A Records of the Sir John Middlemore Charitable Trust and Middlemore Homes with the exception of annual reports and published material is subject to a 75-year closure period. This means that material from 1943 onwards is closed.  Material from 1944 will be open from January 2020.

Closure periods are calculated from the last date in a volume or file, so it may be that some entries prior to 1943 remain closed because they are contained in a volume/file with more recent material.

People trying to trace their relatives, for case files and adoption agreements  should contact with details of the person they are looking for and  they will check what records  are held  and whether or not they are open. Where material is closed,  they would pass on the enquiry to Social Services Such enquiries need to be made in writing and proof of identity is required from the person enquiring.

10.Fairbridge  Archives

In1926 the first four Middlemore boys joined a  Fairbridge party to Australia. Between 1935 to 1948  about 100  Middlemore children were emigrated to the Fairbridge Farm School in British Columbia.  Many of the records for this period are held by The Fairbridge Society who have deposited their archives in the University of Liverpool. Access  seems to be  provided only to people themselves on application with proof of ID. In charge of the archive is Simon Major-  e mail:

11. Getting copies of original documents

The Wolfson Centre does not do copies but do allow  you to photograph  documents yourself. There is a fee of £3.50 and you have tocomplete a form which outlines the copyright rules. They have a camera stand available .

12. The Middlemore Index 

An online resource compiled by The British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa,

From the Home page go to Research and Projects and the click on Middlemore Index. It is worth looking at the Guide to the Middlemore Index as well.

The Index includes the surnames of all Middlemore children brought to Canada 1873  to1932.,  and also all legible references to them in the microfilmed records deposited at Library and Archives Canada.

Not included are the Middlemore children the Fairbridge Society brought to the Farm School in British Columbia between 1936 and 1948 because some of the files are less than 75 years old and closed.

 Patricia Roberts Pichette led the team of volunteers who undertook this work.

13. Other Sources of information

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: Great Canadian Expectations, The Middlemore Experience by Patricia Roberts-Pichette

Further Useful Links :

Social Media:

Facebook has many genealogy pages, including area specific groups, for example Midland Ancestors and user groups for subscription sites – Ancestry, Find My Past etc. 

DNA Testing:

Subscription sites offer DNA testing services. Ancestry has the largest database. The result can be uploaded to other sites e.g.  Gedmatch, for comparison to those databases

Ordering Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates: 

General Register Office