Guest Post: They Came to Canada

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This is a guest post by John D. Reid, international speaker and author who blogs at Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections. He emigrated thinking he was the Canadian pioneer in his family, only to discover later that three separate branches of his family tree had arrived in Canada before him. Formerly a Ph.D. research scientist and policy advisor in atmospheric science, he turned to family history when nearing retirement and has served as president of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa, on the Services Advisory Board for Library and Archives Canada and as chair of the City of Ottawa Arts, Heritage and Culture Advisory Committee. His ancestry is mainly from England with one Jewish line originating in Amsterdam.

Canada is a multicultural nation. You may not know it, but chances are you have a not-too-distant relative from a previous generation who joined the parade of people from many countries: Britain, the United States, France, Ireland, Germany, Italy, China, the Ukraine, the Netherlands, Poland, India, Russia, Norway, Portugal, and many more, seeking to make Canada their new home.

The early 1900s, prior to World War I, saw record levels of immigration. If your relative arrived in Canada by 1911, they should be found in MyHeritage’s Canadian Census collection (1825–1911). The 1911 Census helpfully provides the year of immigration, birth year, and month and country of birth, while you’re in luck if they appear in the 1901 Census, as that one records exact birth dates.

Canadian Records on MyHeritage 

In recent weeks, MyHeritage has released two new Canadian collections that may be very useful.

Canada Phone and Address Listings
This is currently the largest Canadian collection on MyHeritage with over 13 million records. It includes phone numbers and residences of people residing in Canada over the last few decades. The data sometimes contains ages and educational info as well.

1906 Canada Census of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba
The 1906 census was the first regularly scheduled census of the Prairie Provinces. The same census was then conducted every 10 years until 1956. The purpose of this special census was to measure the high population growth occurring in this part of the country during the first half of the 20th century. This collection includes over 800,000 records with images.

Here is an example of a census record from this collection for the Canadian radio announcer Lionel Parker:

To see all Canadian records available on MyHeritage: https://www.myheritage.com/research/category-Canada/canada-genealogy-vital-records.

Library and Archives Canada

Canada’s combined national library and archives in Ottawa, called Library and Archives Canada (LAC), is the jewel in the national crown of documentary repositories. A  priority for LAC  is making resources accessible for free online, especially those of interest to genealogists, such as the wide assortment of holdings related to immigrants. Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada believes it’s not good enough just to store records or limit access, maintaining “preservation without access is simply hoarding.”

Immigrant Records Online

Some online resources listed under Immigration on the LAC website are:

  • 8,432 Citizenship Registration Records, 1851-1945 from the Montreal Circuit Court
  • 11,400 files with a 21-item questionnaire and photographs of immigrants from the Russian Empire who were of Jewish, Finnish, Ukrainian or Polish origins
  • 14,793 references to names of Ukrainians who arrived 1891-1930
  • 33,036 references to immigrants who stayed, were born, married or buried at the Grosse Île Quarantine Station between 1832-1937
  • More than 100,000 index records of orphaned, abandoned and pauper juvenile immigrants from the United Kingdom arriving in Canada under programs of philanthropic organizations
  • 139,458 references in General Registers of Chinese Immigration, 1885-1949
  • And, millions of indexed records in ships’ passenger lists, 1865-1935.

You can also find immigrants in LAC records for the Canadian military during World War I. Of the 640,000 soldiers and nursing sisters who served, the majority up until 1917 were immigrants. Their service files are being digitized in a project expected to be complete by mid-2018. The project is more than half-finished and access to those files is free online.

My great uncle, John A. D. Barnett, appears on a passenger list arriving in Québec and as a World War I soldier enlisting in Ontario. After the war, totally blind, he returned to Canada and obtained a land grant as a soldier-settler in the province of Saskatchewan. There’s an index entry for him in the LAC database Land Grants of Western Canada, 1870-1930, with more details on his land grant in records held by the province. Generally speaking, Canada’s provincial and territorial archives hold many records which are not available at LAC, including the civil registrations of births, marriages, and deaths.

Visit and Celebrate

To date, only a small fraction of LAC’s records are online. To consult others, visit the reading rooms and an area devoted to genealogy at 395 Wellington Street, a few blocks west of the Parliament Buildings. While preparation is important when making any research visit, it’s especially important when researching at LAC, as material needs to be ordered in advance and brought in from off-site―something that can take several days.

Why not consider joining the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary coming up? Events are happening Canada-wide.

Links

. . . online resources listed under Immigration

. . . access to those files is free online

. . . Land Grants of Western Canada, 1870-1930 

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