Families kept apart by poor recordkeeping
It’s not just blood that keeps families together – recordkeeping has a role to play too.
Below is a collection of recordkeeping failures that have kept families separated and left people disconnected from their heritage and identity.
- Federal officials lost track of nearly 1,500 children
- Canada pressured to find all unmarked Indigenous graves
- Four thousand Canadian families broken up
- Spain’s four decade baby-snatching nightmare
- Australians raised in orphanages and foster homes may never know their own history
Federal officials lost track of nearly 1,500 children
Federal officials lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children after a government agency placed the minors in the homes of adult sponsors in communities across the country, according to testimony before a Senate subcommittee.
Read more: PBS News, 27
Canada pressured to find all unmarked Indigenous graves
For more than a century, Indigenous children were forcibly separated from their families to assimilate them into Canadian society.
In 2021, the remains of 215 children were found buried at a former residential school. Searchers acted on a “knowing” in the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation community and located the unmarked graves using ground-penetrating radar.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified more than 4,100 children who died while in residential schools, but the true number of victims may never be known because of incomplete or missing records.
Lawmakers and First Nations groups are calling for all former residential school sites to be examined for human remains.
Read more: NBC, 3 June 2021
Four thousand Canadian families broken up
Mary Flaherty was only two years old when she was taken for tuberculosis treatment in a southern sanitarium. Tuberculosis treatment wasn’t available in the Arctic, so she and thousands of others were shipped by the government to sanitariums in Hamilton, Montreal, and other southern cities.
Mary was cured after six months, but it took two more years for her to be returned to her family because no records were kept of where she came from or who her family was. By the time she made it back to Grise Fiord, she’d spent half of her short life in a sanitarium, couldn’t speak her parents’ sole language, and didn’t even recognize their faces.
“Ignorance and incompetence made my sister a stranger in her own family,” her sister Martha says.
Read more: Vice News, 13 June 2014
Spain’s four decade baby-snatching nightmare
Nobody knows exactly how many Spanish women were victims of the baby-snatching industry.
Because it seemed to operate with the willful ignorance (at the very least) of the state, and with the collusion of the Catholic Church, the recordkeeping was abysmal and probably deliberate.
Read more: CBS Evening News, 17 May 2012
Australians raised in orphanages or foster homes may never know their own history
An inquiry has heard poor recordkeeping is contributing to the emotional trauma of Australians raised in orphanages or foster homes.
A state ward trying to piece together their identity was told by the Victorian Department of Human Services their file had been found but there was nothing in it.
Another ward of state was told by the Uniting Church there were too many files to sift through, a Victorian inquiry has heard.
Experts have warned that some Australians raised in orphanages or foster homes may never know their own history because of poor record keeping.
Read more: SBS, 5 April 2013