In 1823 and 1825, the British government assisted over 2,500 poor men, women and children from the south of Ireland to relocate to the backwoods of Upper Canada. The architect and chief proponent of assisted emigration at the time was Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton, Under-Secretary for War and the Colonies, who recruited Peter Robinson to assist and oversee the Irish emigrants.
Wilmot-Horton’s systematic approach to documenting and evaluating his “experimental” emigrations is exemplified in his wide-ranging survey of 180 Irish settlers in the Bathurst and Newcastle Districts of Upper Canada in 1828. The settlers’ personal accounts, offered in response to this survey, have gone virtually unnoticed for nearly two centuries – indeed, some historians have doubted that they ever existed at all!
Happily I came upon the settlers’ responses in the Sir Robert Wilmot Horton fonds in the Library and Archives of Canada. To learn more about Wilmot-Horton’s survey, and to view the settlers’ responses, please visit Peannairi.