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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree December 2018 > Breaking the cycle: a history of children in care

Breaking the cycle: a history of children in care


Reader story


When Bernadette McBride began exploring her maternal family history she uncovered more than 100 years of intergenerational trauma, featuring poverty-stricken young mothers and children in care; from a turn-of-the-century Irish workhouse and a 1950s’ mother and baby institution, to a Salvation Army children’s home in the 1980s and ‘90s. However, her findings prove that this inherited cycle of female life circumstances could be broken…

By tradition, surnames have been passed down the male line, and therefore our male lineage is often the first point of call when conducting family history. Where does this leave the legacy of the ladies in our lives? Black and white photographs of our female ancestors lie gathering dust in a box in the attic with no concrete back story; yet, with a story to tell.

My story

My first ‘proper’ job after leaving school was working at the General Register Office (GRO) in the family history department. As a naturally curious person I found the job endlessly fascinating, and I loved sinking my teeth into the more difficult cases. Yet, despite my work experience all those years ago, I have struggled to trace my own maternal lineage.

Bereavement led to a renewed interest in discovering my own female ancestry. In my late twenties I lost my mother. A year later I found myself still in the depths of grief and pregnant with my first child, a daughter of my own. My grief was for more than the loss of my mother though – it was for the loss of my mother from my childhood, and for the loss of my own childhood. In the 1980s and ‘90s I was placed on the child protection register and was in and out of foster care and children’s home on a regular basis. My mother had encountered a lot of difficulties in her life stemming from childhood that affected her well into adulthood.

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About Family Tree

From practical projects for a fabulous family history, to the quest to take your family tree back to Norman times, or the journey to heal a broken family, it's all here in Family Tree: Check out our 20 ideas and solutions to help you get organised and create a family history you can cherish. Explore history back in Norman times, and see how you might be able to trace an ancestor back to William the Conqueror too... See what you know in our Family Tree Academy challenges. Explore the latest DNA know-how. Make yourself a cuppa and enjoy those family stories. We know you're going to love this issue!