Inside Sources: Canada Border Crossings

By Sharon DeBartolo Carmack Premium

Many immigrant families arrived through Canadian ports, and some settled for a time in Canada before moving to the United States. The US government didn’t keep records on these “border crossers” until 1895, when it realized about 40 percent of immigrants to Canada planned to end up in the United States. Then joint US-Canadian immigrant inspection created two sets of records: passenger lists and inspection cards. The passenger lists contain traditional manifests, as well as monthly lists naming aliens who crossed the border, usually on trains.

The US Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Montreal district centralized records from all ports in its jurisdiction at its headquarters, which originally was in Montreal and later moved to St. Albans, Vt. (that’s why you’ll hear these records called “St. Albans lists”). This district includes US border entries at Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, North Dakota and Washington.

Like US passenger lists, Canadian border-crossing records have been indexed using Soundex, a system that groups similar-sounding names together. You’ll find the microfilmed cards and lists at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) <>, its regional facilities and the Family History Library (FHL) <>. The lists are on NARA microfilms M1465, M1461, M1462, M1463, M1464 and M1465. To find the records in the FHL catalog, do a keyword search for Canadian border entries.

From the September 2005 Family Tree Sourcebook