Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor R. Louis Gentilcore
This study explores the extent to which migration, kinship and social and economic security programs were utilized by individuals in order to increase their 'life chances'. The study area consists of three contiguous townships on the north shore of Lake Huron during an era of profound transitions in Canadian society between 1879 and 1939 and also encompassing the local evolution from frontier to established agricultural community.
Within nineteenth century North American populations, two groups can be distinguished: the geographically stable 'core' minority and a geographically mobile majority. In the study area, as elsewhere, the farm family functioned as a socio-economic institution. The family farm was a source of security, stability and wealth. Paradoxically, while it bound some to the land, it also forced others to leave. As a social unit, the farm family tried to protect and promote the interests of all family members in order to increase their 'life chances'. However, economic realities meant that social welfare often had to be subordinated to the need to attain economic stability in a society with few alternate sources of assistance.
Farmers wanted to provide a 'start in life' for all of their children; but they were loathe to subdivide the farm lest that practice compromise its economic viability. Small farms could not support a family. Conversely, providing for non-inheriting children also depleted capital accrued by the farm. Kinship conventions governed the crucial interface between social and economic functions of these families. They provided flexibility in the orderly transfer of land from the older generation to the younger and fair compensation for those who didn't inherit.
The Rowell-Sirois Report of 1940 suggests that the stresses upon families of unemployment, aging, illness and untimely death, accelerated by the changes from a predominantly rural, agricultural society to an urban, industrial one, were inadequately met by traditional kinship-oriented mutual support networks.
This study examines the extent to which this assertion is valid and the extent to which the first government programs to improve social and economic welfare modified the uncertainties of survival to 1939. Personal characteristics indicative of kinship relations are strongly associated with geographical stability or mobility among farm family members.
Buchanan, Elizabeth, "In Search of Security: Kinship and the Farm Family on the North Shore of Lake Huron (Ontario), 1879-1939" (1989). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1952.