Title and statement of responsibility area
St. Mary's Orphanage sous-fonds
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- Graphic material
- Textual record
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- Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the sous-fonds.
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- St. Mary's Orphanage
Physical description area
350.8 cm of textual records
138 photographs : b&w
17 registers ; 48 x 31 cm or smaller
1 scrapbook ; 37 x 30 cm
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In 1854, there was a cholera and typhus outbreak within the city of Hamilton. At the same time, many immigrants were crossing the Atlantic Ocean looking for a better life in the New World. Often ships were overcrowded, which led to the spreading of disease. Newcomers often did not have large support networks, like family and neighbours, upon their arrival. This made life even more difficult if the family was dealing with illness or the death of a loved one. Factors like these resulted in Hamilton having a large orphan population. The Sisters of St. Joseph established St. Mary’s Orphanage in 1852 in response to the rising concern for orphaned children within the city.
Initially, the Sisters cared for two orphaned girls in their first convent on MacNab and Cannon Streets. In 1857, an orphan girls’ quarters was located in the Sisters’ second convent at 204 Park Street. The girls lived in the Carmel Wing located under the novitiate. Additions to the property were made on various occasions to meet the needs of the increasing number of children. Both boys and girls resided on the property, although they were housed separately. In 1880, the boys were then moved to a wing in the House of Providence, which was a facility to care for the aged. The building had been donated by Reverend John McNulty. In 1900, the House of Providence burned down which meant that the boys had to move again, this time going into individual homes for care until a new building was opened on the convent property in 1909. In 1910, Mount Carmel Infants’ Home was built on Hamilton Mountain. Young, “delicate” children were cared for in this facility until 1926. In 1936, the girls of St. Mary’s Orphanage were moved from the Park Street convent to the newly built Mount St. Joseph Orphanage at 354 King Street West, a diocesan property. This became known as the Mount St. Joseph Girls’ Division of St. Mary’s Orphanage. The boys later joined the girls at Mount St. Joseph in 1951. This was the first time that the orphanage was co-ed. Mount St. Joseph was administered by St. Mary’s Orphanage.
In 1960, Mount St. Joseph Orphanage became Mount St. Joseph Centre, a school for emotionally disturbed boys. This Centre remained open until 1978.
The Sisters worked tirelessly to provide for the orphaned children. They also fostered children, whose parents paid for their room and board. One of the main ways that the Sisters funded the orphanage was through the annual Orphans’ Festival. This Festival not only helped raise funds for the orphans, but also instilled them with musical and theatrical talents. The festivals were heavily attended by the local community. The Sisters also went to surrounding rural communities to ask for donations and food for the orphanage.
Scope and content
This sous-contains fundraising documents pertaining to rural collections and the Orphans’ Festival which show that the Sisters needed support from the surrounding community in order to operate the orphanage. Articles, tickets, programmes, and receipts from the annual Orphans’ Festival show the importance the event held, not only to the Sisters but also to Hamilton citizens. Financial records further illustrate how much money was needed to care for the orphaned children. The account books detail the necessary items Sisters purchased to successfully run the orphanage. The fee books show how much parents paid to foster their children. These records also demonstrate the needs the Sisters had on outside resources, like government grants and surrounding community funding. Documents pertaining to regulatory compliance are also found, including the 1965 Children’s Institutions Act and Regulations which outlines the rules the orphanage had to follow in order to operate within the law. Correspondence on a variety of topics is also present in the collection, including finance, education, and daily operations. There are photographs which offer a “snapshot” into the life of the orphanage. These images depict Sisters working in the orphanage, the Orphans’ Festival, children’s communion celebrations, and the dining hall. The sous-fonds also contains records created by the Advisory Committee of Mount St. Joseph Orphanage. These records outline the types of work the committee did, including structural changes to the building. There are several summaries of the history of St. Mary’s Orphanage, and a brief summary of the history of Mount St. Carmel Infants’ Home. The registers offer significant information about the children who remained in the care of the orphanage. These list information such as the orphan’s name, date of birth, religious denomination, nationality, date of admission and discharge, date of death [if applicable], and who took the child after he or she was discharged. There are also registers that list information about children who stayed for day stays, as well as children who were moved into foster homes. The sous-fonds contains information about orphans who received their religious sacraments, as well as baptismal records. Also found personal folders and admission cards, which provide information about application and departure, correspondence and parental addresses and occupations.
Immediate source of acquisition
Records transferred from St. Mary’s Orphanage to the archives – Hamilton site, and then to the main archives.
Order was imposed on the sous-fonds.
Language of material
Script of material
Location of originals
The records are stored off-site in London, Ontario.
Availability of other formats
Restrictions on access
Some records will be restricted to public access to protect privacy.
The Archives reserves the right to restrict access to the collection depending on the condition of the archival material, the amount of material requested, and the purpose of the research. The use of certain materials may also be restricted for reasons of privacy or sensitivity, or under a donor agreement. Access restrictions will be applied equally to all researchers and reviewed periodically. No researcher will be given access to any materials that contain a personal information bank such as donor agreements or personnel records, or to other proprietary information such as appraisals, insurance valuations, or condition reports.
Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication
Permission to study archival records does not extend to publication or display rights. The researcher must request this permission in writing from the Archives.
There is a series and file list.
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No further accruals are expected.
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Dates of creation, revision and deletion
November 12, 2018
July 2, 2020