Canadian Ports of Immigration

By David A. Fryxell Premium


Q. Did Canada have its own immigration port that served as the equivalent to Ellis Island? One of my ancestors went to Canada before going to New Hampshire.
A. Like the United States, where immigrants arrived through many ports, Canada received newcomers through ports on both coasts. No single port dominated Canadian arrivals as strongly as New York’s Ellis Island did for the United States, but the most popular ports were Quebec City and Halifax. Passenger records exist for these and other Canadian ports beginning in 1865:
• Quebec City and Montreal, Quebec, 1865-1935
• Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1881-1935
• Saint John, New Brunswick, 1900-1935
• North Sydney, Nova Scotia, 1906-1935 (mostly ferry arrivals from within Canada, with a few passengers in transit from other countries)
• Vancouver, British Columbia, 1905-1935
• Victoria, British Columbia, 1905-1935
The Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website links to several immigration collections. You can search arrivals in Quebec from 1865 to 1900 and view images of original passenger lists showing each person’s name, age, country of origin, occupation and destination. LAC also digitized other ports’ passenger lists from 1865 to 1922, but that database is searchable only by ship name, and port and date of departure and/or arrival—not by passenger name. On the same LAC page, access unindexed passenger list images for individual ports from 1925 to 1935, as well as declarations of arriving passengers (called Ocean Arrivals, Form 30A, 1919-1924).
FamilySearch has microfilmed passenger lists for Quebec, 1865 to 1900, and Halifax, 1881 to 1899. subscribers can search Canadian passenger lists from 1865 to 1935 by name, as well as the individual declarations.
You also might find Canadian immigrants through local records. The Archives of Ontario has a database of more than 29,000 entries spanning 1865 to 1883 of government-assisted immigrants in Toronto, searchable by surname. The archives also has records Ontario kept on the provincial level, independently of the dominion government, from 1869 to 1897; some of these are available from FamilySearch.

Only Canadian citizens and other residents can request post-1934 Canadian passenger lists, using an Access to Information Request Form, available at Canadian post offices. Proof of the immigrant’s death and the approximate date of arrival are required.

From the July/August 2014 Family Tree Magazine

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