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Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada St. Mary's Orphanage sous-fonds
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St. Mary's Orphanage sous-fonds

  • CA ON00279 HF01-SF01
  • Sous-fonds
  • 1852-2015

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.

St. Mary's Orphanage


This series includes historical summaries about St. Mary’s Orphanage, from the time the orphanage was located at 204 Park Street, to the House of Providence, Mount St. Joseph, and the Mount Carmel Infants’ Home. There is a list of the Sisters who worked in the orphanage from 1958 to 1961. There is also a timeline of events that outlines important milestones in the orphanage’s history, such as when it was moved into new buildings, and information about fundraising. A copy of the Motherhouse annals also comprises this series. There is also a brief summary of the history of the Mount Carmel Infants’ Home. Frank Mayer’s 1989, "There ‘With’ the Grace of God Go I", text details his life growing up in Hamilton. In Chapters 13-16, he recollects his time spent at St. Mary’s Orphanage in the early 1930s after the Great Depression made it difficult for his father to find work. He discusses topics such as the Orphans’ Festival, the building, the Sisters, as well as outlining what an average day was like living in the home. An October 26, 2015 Hamilton Spectator article details the demolition of Mount St. Joseph.


Correspondence on varied matters can be found in this series. A May 9, 1939 letter from Mother Marguerite to Hamilton Mayor William Morrison discusses the one year “experiment” where the Sisters placed children in outside foster homes. There are also letters which discuss financial activities. An August 6, 1940 letter from the Hamilton Community Fund to Mother Marguerite states that $5,000 was bequeathed from the estate of the Honourable George Lynch-Staunton to be used to help fund the cost of the laundry. There is also correspondence between the orphanage and the Catholic Welfare Bureau regarding an increase in grant money for institutions caring for children. A 1959 letter written by the Mount St. Joseph Educational Committee discusses the higher education opportunities made available to orphaned children. A 1987 letter from Sullivan, Festeryga, Lawlor & Arrell discusses the Sisters setting up an informal voluntary disclosure registry.


The registers record significant information about the children who remained in the care of the orphanage. Some of the registers include those detailing day stays and children in residences. These sources provide the children’s name, admission and dismissal date, and age. There are also more detailed registers which provide information about both the boys and girls of St. Mary’s Orphanage. These books list the orphans’ name, date of birth, religious denomination, nationality, date of admission and discharge, date of death, who took them after they were discharged, and the duration of their time in care. The House of Providence Records 1893-1920 [1924] [St. Mary’s Branch House of Providence] provides the names and details of boys who were moved to a wing in the House of Providence between 1879 and 1900. There are also names of young girls listed in this register, which is the only evidence that orphan girls were also resident at the House of Providence. Another register lists information about orphans who received their religious sacraments. The Mount St. Carmel register lists information about the children who were cared for in this institution.


This series provides information about the daily expenses of running St. Mary’s Orphanage. For individual fostered children, information is given about the promised rate, the amount of board money actually received, who paid for the child’s stay, as well as how long the child remained in the care of the Sisters. Receipts and disbursements show the orphanage’s total expenses for 1958 and 1959. These documents provide information about how many boys versus girls were in the Sisters’ care, as well as the ages of the children. The public welfare accounting forms give details about each individual child, including age, rate per week, admission and discharge date, and the number of days in care. Additional information can be found in the records of orphan fees books (1902-1926 and 1925-1944). These books outline payment information regarding individual orphans’ care. Applications for provincial aid, Orphan Festival financial reports, and general financial reports also make up this series. Cash statements are provided for the period covering 1935 to 1940. These detail information such as the amount of money spent on clothing and feeding the children, Orphans’ Festival expenses, and general bills. The series also shows the amount of fees received from parents, the city of Hamilton, the Orphans’ Festival, and provincial government grants. The 1957 to 1965 journal lists items from the orphanage’s accounts payable and receivable. Items include bread, cereals, coal, water, and grant money. There are also receipt books that cover the years 1930 to 1943. These books give an in-depth look at what the Sisters were purchasing to run the orphanage.

Regulatory Compliance

This series provide information about government regulations for orphanages in Ontario, including the 1965 Children’s Institutions Act and Regulations. These documents outline the rules surrounding the care of orphaned and fostered children. Detailed criteria had to be met. There are sections including general health and well-being, medical and dental care, nutrition, and clothing. Financial activities also had to be carried out within accordance to the law. Information about budgets, audits, and financing can also be found in these records. Annual inspections of the orphanage were done by the Department of Public Welfare. The inspection reports provide information about building safety, dietary conditions, and the physical and mental well-being of the children.


This sub-series is comprised of application forms, correspondence about individual orphans, and children’s personal record forms. These forms detail information such as when the orphan was admitted, if they were baptized, date and place of birth, and family information such as parents’ names, occupations, and addresses. Correspondence includes letters with other orphanages about sending or accepting children from St. Mary’s Orphanage. There are also letters that detail financial and health information. A book of addresses also comprises this series. This book provides the addresses for parents who are fostering their children with the Sisters. There are also adoption papers, application papers, and papers listing admission and dismissal dates.

Vital Records

This sub-series is comprised of baptismal certificates, summaries of individual information, and note cards detailing when the child was admitted into the orphanage. These note cards also give, in some cases, the reason for admission and family and health information.

Orphan Registration

This series is comprised of folders, data cards and envelopes relating to each individual child in care. The files and cards include orphanage application forms, correspondence about individual children, and vital records, including baptismal records.

Orphans' Festival

This sub-series consists of various records dealing with the annual Orphans’ Festival. This festival began in 1853 in the Mechanics’ Hall. In later years, it moved into the Grand Opera building. The festival continued for 103 years, finishing in 1956. The orphaned and fostered children performed theatrical and musical numbers for the Hamilton community in order to help raise funds. The yearly festivals were successful, bringing in considerable amounts of money. There are two souvenir booklets from 1919 and 1920 which provide a detailed history of St. Mary’s Orphanage, as well as a list of festival sponsors. Articles about the Orphans’ Festival appear in the 1925 and 1926 issues of Catholic Magazine. These articles detail the importance of the festival. In the January 1926 issue, author F.E. Regan urged community members to attend and support the efforts of the Sisters. Addresses given at the festival also comprise this sub-series. These speeches show the spirit of the festivals and how popular and important they were both to the Sisters and to the Hamilton community. Ledgers of ticket sales provide a list of attendees, as well as how much they contributed to the event. Itinerary and sponsor information appears in the programmes. Receipts and invoices further show participating individuals and businesses, as well as their donations. Several festival advertisements and tickets also make up this sub-series. Newspaper clippings, photographs, and programmes are present in a large scrapbook.


This series illuminates two important orphanage-related activities performed by the Sisters: collecting funds from surrounding rural communities and the annual Orphans’ Festival. These fundraising events were important as it was expensive to house and feed the orphaned and fostered children. Thus, the Sisters asked the community for support. The series contains news clippings, programs, photographs, ledgers and record books.


This series includes reports of the Mount St. Joseph advisory board. The board acted in an advisory capacity to the Sisters of St. Joseph at Mount St. Joseph. The October 1952 to May 1953 report details the work accomplished by the board, including having showers, lights, and a fence installed at the orphanage. The June to September 1954 report lists some of the events that occurred over the summer. This includes information about donations to the orphanage. Minutes of the advisory board meetings also comprise this series. There is also correspondence about the use of funds and events occurring at the orphanage.


Four record books make up this sub-series. These provide donation information from the surrounding communities of Haldimand County, Caledonia, Cayuga, and Hamilton. In 1854, Father Schneider of Goderich invited the Sisters to come to his mission to collect food for the orphans. From that time onward, the Sisters visited surrounding rural communities to raise monies to help fund the orphanage. These record books provide a list of individual names and businesses and the amount of their donations.


The majority of the photographs show children performing at the annual Orphans’ Festival. They are in various costumes posing for pictures, or they are performing on stage. The orphanage dining hall is featured in several photographs. Children are seen eating while the Sisters are working in the room. These images also show what the interior of the orphanage building looked like. Images of children playing games and holidays are also included in this series. There are also several photographs of the Sisters, such as an image of Sr. Clarice Van Tassel fixing a girl’s dress. Several photographs of children receiving their communion also comprise this series.

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