Week 46 of 52 Ancestors is \”poor\”. One can\’t think of the poor in history without the dreaded \”poorhouse\” or \”workhouse\” coming to mind. Most people associate these with Britain, but Canada had them too. These institutions had the official names of \”Houses of Industry\”. They also went by names such as \”Poor Asylum\”. Their goal was to have inmates work to support their admittance into them. These institutions first started to appear in Canada in the late 1700\’s to early 1800\’s in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes. In Western Canada, the notion did not appear to take hold, though British Columbia had a similar system. If you would like a good read on the history of social welfare in Canada, you can preview Social Policy and Practice in Canada: A History By Alvin Finkel on Google Books. The free preview lets you look at several sections, and it\’s a very good read. I took some looking around at the provincial archives, and found some various records by province for Eastern and Central Canada. This is by no means a complete list. These will help you get started though.
Newfoundland did not join Canada until 1949. From what I have read, there were porr houses in the province much earlier than the rest of Canada, and they adopted the Poor Law of Elizabeth I. The Rooms has in their holdings a few things relating to poorhouses and asylums:
- Office of the Colonial Secretary fonds Reports Fonds GN 2, Series GN 2.28 1868, 1896, 1899-1909, 
- John Peyton Jr. and Thomas Peyton fonds Fonds MG 323 1805-1911 They were magistrates that dealt with poor relief
PANB has a few record sets in their holdings:
- Fonds ID81 – Provincial Lunatic Asylum
- Fonds ID4836 – Leavitt family. Includes an account book for the St. John almshouse
- Fonds MC249 – Saint John almshouse
- County of Lanark
- Newcastle District Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace grand jury presentments
- Peterborough County Court of General Sessions of the Peace grand jury presentments
- Perth County Grand Jury presentments
- Drawings of House of Industry (Toronto, Ont.)
Don\’t forget to look at these other sources for Poorhouse records:
- City/County Archives. In fact, your much more likely to find specific records here than in the Provincial Archives. For instance, The City of Toronto Archives hold the books of the Toronto House of Refuge. The Toronto Branch of Ontario Ancestors has a project going on right now to get these indexed.
- Internet Archive – remember to use a variety of search terms such as \”poor house\”, \”almshouse\”, \”house of industry\”. And remember to include your location as well in the search. They have uploads from all over the world.
- University and College Libraries
- Google. If you know the name of the institution, try using Google. Some of these buildings have been turned into museums, especially in Ontario. Others, like the Waterloo County House of Industry and Refuge, are virtual museums giving an amazing amount of information on not only the residents, but the staff as well.
- As always,Canadiana is a go-to source. \”House Of Industry\” resulted in 1756 hits. \”Poor Asylum\” gave 792 hits, and \”poor house\” gave 3408 hits.