Harry's Story

It is a sad fact that, for some people, a childhood in children's homes
meant being split from their family - not just parents, and grandparents 
but also brothers and sisters.



The first step in looking for lost family members when children have been taken into care is to request your own care records. There are times when these may offer some clues...


A few years ago, I was contacted by Harry who knew nothing about his family and believed he was the only one left.

It is amazing what he discovered within the leather-bound covers of an old worn-out, handwritten book.


Harry grew up knowing that his parents had died during the Second World War and that he had no brothers or sisters.

“I was in Erdington Cottage Homes from a very young age, but I knew nothing more. I didn’t know why I was in the Homes or anything about my family."

Like many people, when Harry was older, he decided to try to find out what he could about his childhood. He happened to get in touch with me and I was able to let him know how to apply for his records. He simply wanted to know a little more about who his family had been.

The children's home he had spent his childhood in was in Birmingham, so he applied through Birmingham City Council for his records and was pointed in the direction of Birmingham Archives and Heritage where an archivist had managed to locate a reference to him in one of the old Admissions Registers.



“In the Archives there are these huge registers – all handwritten – and from them I found out my mother’s name.


"I learned that she was very young when she had me and we both went into the workhouse which was right next to the orphanage and then she deserted me in
about 1941.


"But at the orphanage, they had told me my parents were dead - that they had died in the war and that was why I was there. So it was news to me!"

The impact of believing that you have no family cannot be underestimated. Harry left the children's home, aged 14, with no family to go to. He ended up in digs with an apprenticeship which he describes as a very hard time for such a young man.

He joined the Army and found the services environment suited him.


Having no family means that there are no shared memories of childhood. No one to talk to about the past or help understand what heppened and why. It was these sort of thoughts that prompted Harry, like so many people, to see if any records of his childhood could be found.


He wasn't expecting much and he didn't get very much from the records. It was only a single entry in a dusty old admissions register written some 60 years earlier. He was shocked to discover that his mother wasn't dead at the time Harry had been told she was.


There was, however, another single, seemingly innocent, fact that had been recorded those six decades earlier. His mother had a sister.


I met Harry in 2012 and he told me his story and his memories of being in Erdington Cottage Homes. His memories, and the memories of others who were in the Homes, are told in
this book.




“The records I got about myself a few years ago indicated that my mother had a sister.


"Using this small detail, I went through more than a million name searches
but I eventually found my aunt’s family.


"To my great surprise, I then found
I had a brother and two sisters. In the last couple of years we have all met.

"I have also been able to visit my mother’s grave.


It is incredible that one single fact in an old register which, only by chance, had survived all these years - many didn't - has led to the most amazing family discovery.

How tragic it is that Harry had to wait until he was in his late 60s to discover that he wasn't an only child, and be a part of his family for the first time.


Finding your records 


The first step in learning about your childhood in care and in seeking information about siblings is to apply to see your records from the care authority in the location of your children's home.

There may not be any records, they may contain very little information but you may be lucky, like Harry, and start on a journey of discovery.

Have a look at our page on accessing records.