6,000 adoptions from six mother and baby homes across 23 years

Records of placements show children being sent to US, Britain and Germany

The Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Tipperary, a mother and baby home run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary from 1930 to 1970. Records show that between April 1st, 1960, and March 31st, 1967, of the 634 children adopted then, 111 went to the US, nine to England and two to Scotland. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

The Sean Ross Abbey in Roscrea, Tipperary, a mother and baby home run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary from 1930 to 1970. Records show that between April 1st, 1960, and March 31st, 1967, of the 634 children adopted then, 111 went to the US, nine to England and two to Scotland. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 01:01

More than 6,000 adoptions were recorded as having taken place in six mother and baby homes in the 23 years between 1950 and 1973, contemporaneous records show. The children went to a range of destinations including the US, Britain and Germany, as well as to homes across Ireland.

The information on adoptions was supplied by two homes maintained by local authorities – the Children’s Home in Tuam and St Patrick’s Home in Pelletstown, Dublin – and four other homes run by religious orders where local health authorities sent unmarried mothers.

These were the Sacred Heart Home, Bessborough, Cork, Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, and St Peter’s (also known as Manor House), Castlepollard, Co Westmeath, all of which were run by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, and Ard Mhuire in Dunboyne, Co Meath, which opened in 1955 and was run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Between April 1st, 1950, and March 31st, 1973, 6,109 adoptions were recorded in annual returns filed by these institutions to the Department of Health. However, the true figure may be higher as a small number of records are missing for the period between 1968 and 1971.

In a small number of cases, the returns also included information on where the children were adopted to. For example, in the year to the end of March 1955, more than half (41) of the 81 adoptions recorded in St Patrick’s Home in Dublin were listed as “USA”. Of the 423 children adopted from the institution between April 1st, 1959, and March 31st, 1963, 78 were listed as American adoptions while one child was adopted to Germany.

Returns for Sean Ross Abbey between April 1st, 1960, and March 31st, 1967, indicate that, of the 634 children adopted in that time, 111 went to the US, nine to England and two to Scotland.

Between 1950 and 1973, an average of 63,000 births occurred in Ireland each year. The records also shed light on 518 deaths which occurred in five mother and baby homes (excluding Tuam) between April 1st, 1950, and March 31st, 1973. These deaths are over and above the 61 deaths which occurred in the children’s home in Tuam from April 1st, 1950, onwards.

In the years between 1965 and 1969, an average of 980 women and 1,050 children a year were admitted to such institutions, a figure which includes children born in the homes. The records show that all five institutions did accept private admissions but confirm that the vast majority of women and children in these homes were provided for by the State.

The records are contained in a file contained in the archives of the Department of Health titled Children and Mothers in Special Homes Annual Returns covering the 23 years between April 1st, 1950, and March 31st, 1973.