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Ontario GenWeb Project: Petworth Emigration Scheme
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Petworth Emigration Scheme
by Wendy Cameron, Jan 2003

A reply to the question: "What is the Petworth Emigration Project"

The Petworth Emigration Project is a case study in emigration from England to Upper Canada (Ontario) during the 1830s. Although carried out on an usually large scale, the Petworth emigrations were part of a more general initiative on the part of English parishes and landlords to send "surplus" workers to Canada. The project is sponsored by the Reverend Edward Jackman and supported by the Jackman Foundation of Toronto.

Between 1832 and 1837, some 1800 men, women, and children came to Upper Canada (Ontario) on ships chartered as part of the Petworth emigration scheme. Our attempt to bring together surnames of individuals and heads of households in reconstructed passenger lists for the Petworth ships can be found at a website created by Marj Kohli and Sue Swiggum: TheShipsList. Click on "Passenger Lists" and then on "Petworth Immigrants." [click on "related links" below for the URL to TheShipsList]

This emigration scheme was based in Petworth, West Sussex and had the patronage of George O'Brien Wyndham, the third Earl of Egremont. Thomas Sockett, the rector of Petworth, planned and organized the emigrations, hiring superintendents to conduct the emigrants as far as Toronto. Financial aid for individual emigrants came from over 100 parishes in Sussex and neighbouring counties, from Lord Egremont, and from lesser landlords and sponsors. The Petworth project has mapped areas in southeast England which sent Petworth emigrants. [click on "related links" below for the URL to The Petworth Emigration Project: Map 2]

In Toronto, the local government provided additional funding to help immigrants in travelling onwards. With or without assistance, many Petworth immigrants found their way to Ontario communities west of Toronto, notably to the area around Hamilton, to the Grand River valley, and to townships reached through Port Stanley on Lake Erie. Some Petworth immigrant families joined two government-assisted settlements in Adelaide Township near London and in Woodstock. As experienced agricultural workers and rural tradesmen, many of the Petworth immigrants found jobs in rural areas and emerging villages. The project has also mapped townships where first-generation immigrants settled on, or soon after, arriving in south-central Ontario. [click on "related links" below for the URL to The Petworth Emigration Project: Map 3]

The results of ten years of research are now available in two books:

  • Wendy Cameron and Mary McDougall Maude, Assisting Emigration to Upper Canada: The Petworth Project 1832-1837
  • and the companion volume edited by Wendy Cameron, Sheila Haines, and Mary McDougall Maude, English Immigrant Voices: Labourers' Letters from Upper Canada in the 1830s.
    Both books are published by McGill-Queens University Press (Montreal and Kingston: 2000).

    These books were prepared with genealogical assistance from Sheila Haines and Leigh Lawson in England from Brenda Dougall Merriman in Canada. Genealogists should note especially Part 2 of Assisting Emigration, "A List of Petworth Immigrants, 1832-1837," and the family information which accompanies the letters in English Immigrant Voices.

    Also in 2000, Allison McCann, assistant archivist at the West Sussex Records Office, and Sheila Haines created an exhibition based on the books and on the collections of the West Sussex Record Office which administers the Petworth House Archives. This exhibition toured in East and West Sussex in 2000 and 2001 and in Ontario in 2001. Although it is no longer touring, we still bring the exhibition out on request for special events.

    Family History Files
    In a third initiative, Father Edward Jackman and the Jackman Foundation have donated the Family history files of the Petworth project to the Doris Lewis Rare Book Room of the University of Waterloo library in Waterloo, Ontario. As the Petworth project is a study of first-generation immigrants, we included information on later generations only if we collected it in the course of identifying Petworth families or if their descendants sent it to us. In addition to correspondence from Ontario and nearby states such as Michigan, we have had heard from Petworth immigrants' descendants on the west coasts of both Canada and the United States and from as far away as Australia. We encourage further donations of letters, photographs, or other records of Petworth immigrants -- or of English settlers in the region around Waterloo - to the University of Waterloo. Please contact Susan Bellingham, (519) 888-4567, ext 3122 or sbelling@library.uwaterloo.ca

    Website (http://petworthemigrations.com)
    The website for the Petworth project has maps, descriptions of the books, a report on the exhibition, a section for the gift to the University of Waterloo, and brief biographies of the participants in the Petworth project which include the services offered by our genealogists.

    In November 2002, we initiated a new use of the website by adding the section "Petworth Wives." This section is based on the list of Petworth immigrants in Part 2 of Assisting Emigration but it presents a new perspective in an alphabetical list of women's surnames at the time they married. In the future, we plan to expand the website to include new information not found in the books.

    About The Author
    Wendy Cameron
    I am the lead investigator for the Petworth Emigration Project. I have been learning about genealogy through this project, but Brenda Dougall Merriman in Canada and Sheila Haines and Leigh Lawson in England have carried out the extensive genealogical research on individual Petworth emigrants. In addition to a continuing interest in the Petworth emigrations, my future plans include working on the immigrant departments of Upper Canada and Canada West and investigating the reception of Irish famine immigrants in Ontario in 1847.

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