Family Tree and reading about the Butterbox Babies…

26 Nov


Well the post a day for November failed…but…

I have been busy updating one of my family trees with notes about each person, what they did, what they were known for, details found in different census reports so that the person viewing the tree – gets an idea about who that ancestor really was.  My intent is to make ancestors real to the family members who never heard the family stories of them, and  give the historical information about the events happening at the time that are relevant to that ancestor.  History when your ancestor was part of it has to be more interesting than what you learned in school, which also means I am updating my knowledge as well.

When I need a break from that, I am reading the book I ordered – Butterbox Babies – Baby Sales Baby Deaths New Revelations 15 Years Later by Bette L. Cahill.  The story of William and Lila Young, and the Ideal Maternity Home in East Chester, N.S. Canada.  Truly one of the most heartbreaking and horrifying historical stories, and although the home was in Canada, many of the babies were adopted into the US.  The Youngs operated in Canada during the same era as Georgia Tann did in the US.

Links to stories on the web of survivors of the Ideal Maternity Home (IDM)…

GV woman helps ‘Butterbox Baby’ survivors understand past July 2012

There was always something curious about Sharon Knight’s early childhood, although it would be many years before she’d learn what it was. When she did, it was far beyond her imagination.

Much distance, time and some sleepless nights would pass before Knight, who now lives in Green Valley, discovered she was a survivor of a Nova Scotia maternity home that, when she was born there in 1945, was already the target of horrific, almost unspeakable claims. They involved medical malpractice, unwarranted deaths and countless “unadoptable” infants being starved to death then buried in small wooden dairy crates or dumped at sea. In the headlines, they would become known as the butterbox babies.

Who Am I? website features three stories, including tenor Ron Murdock, a survivor of the IDM, and also Canadian Adoptee Rights advocate who wrote the Queen.  In 2003, Ron went to Geneva to address the UN Convention on the Rights of Child.  You can read both the letter to the Queen and his submission to the UNCRC here (scroll down).  A more detailed version of his story can be found on another website called, where an article based on an interview by Pip Farquharson, which can be found here.

The IDM also offered childbirth services to married women in a different area of the home.  Article about Violet Hope Eisenhauer who went to the IDM to give birth, and who was told her daughter passed away, but may have been adopted out instead.  I just finished reading about her in the book this morning, and hopefully further in – there will be more to the story.

Ideal Maternity Home Survivors website that has listings of those reunited, and those still searching, personal stories, and a memorial board among other items.  Survivors of IDM held reunions in Nova Scotia – this article was about past reunions, and the upcoming 2009 reunion.


Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Adoption, Ethics


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9 responses to “Family Tree and reading about the Butterbox Babies…

  1. andy

    November 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    I live in Nova Scotia, so the buter box baby stories are near and dear to my heart. They did a movie on the book a few years ago that is well worth watching (although heartbreaking and hard to get through)


    • TAO

      November 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      Andy – I watched it and you are correct – heartbreaking.


  2. JavaMonkey

    November 27, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    This is the first I’ve heard of the IDM story. How horrible- a human grocery store for the wealthy where the “bad fruit” was left to rot and die. I don’t understand how the owners of IDM avoided prison for first degree murder. How can this be?

    Then, I think of my in-laws, who spent large sums to adopt infants from eastern Europe. It saddens me to think that IDM was just one of many, and that the horrors are probably going on today.


    • TAO

      November 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm

      Lack of laws regulating child welfare (among others), lack of evidence, lack of will, politics, The Depression, rural area setting…

      Georgia Tann was the most famous counterpoint in the US – the book about her is worth the read as well.

      The Youngs or Tann were not the only ones – the Black Market in Adoption was thriving – they did senate hearings in the US and changed many laws to try to stop this type of practice.


  3. zoozig

    November 27, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Seems there are terrible people involved in adoption in every corner of the world. Did you see Oranges and Sunshine? Horrible policy adopted by the Brits and the various countries they shipped kids to.The movie is about the situation that existed in Australia and a pioneering social worker who brought it to light. I caught it on Starz on demand, BTW.


    • TAO

      November 30, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      Sorry ZZ – your comment got caught in the spam filter for some unknown reason. My apologies for not checking sooner.

      I haven’t seen Oranges and Sunshine but I read the post Von did on it and if I remember correctly the trailer for the movie. Would love to see it and perhaps will see if I can find it.

      The Butterbox Babies movie is quite good – I watched it on Youtube. Horrible what has happened under the umbrella of “adoption:.


  4. Dianna Hofbeck

    May 11, 2014 at 6:51 am

    I knew a survivor, in New Jersey.


  5. LK

    June 30, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    I am a “survivor.” Many of us did very well in good homes.


  6. TAO

    June 30, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    LK – I’m glad you went to a good home, I’m sure many others did as well.



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