70 Years Of Canadian Immigration Records Now Online

70 Years of Canadian Immigration Records Now Online

TORONTO, Sept. 16 – In a world first, Ancestry.ca, Canada's leading family history website, today launched online the Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, which contains more than 7.2 million names, including 5.6 million of those who travelled from around the world to start a new life in Canada.

The collection is fully indexed by name, month, year, ship and port of origin and arrival of more than 4,000 ships, and includes original images for more than 310,000 pages of historical records. It is the first time that these records have been indexed and made available online.

The Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, the originals of which are held by the Library and Archives Canada (LAC), are the official records of the arrival of the majority of people accepted as immigrants in Canada during this key immigration period.

An estimated 11.6 million Canadians or 37 per cent of its current population have ancestors included in this collection(1), which also includes records for many vacationers and travellers, business people, crew members and historical figures such as foreign leaders, scientists and celebrities.

The collection includes passenger lists from all the major ports of arrival including Halifax, Saint John, North Sydney, Quebec City, Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria and even east coast ports in the US where many arrived before proceeding directly to Canada overland.

The main immigrant nationalities arriving in Canada during this period of rapid growth were British, Irish, Ukrainian, Russian, German, Chinese and Polish (the majority of French immigrants, the second largest Canadian immigrant population, arrived prior to 1865).

Passengers from mainland Europe usually sailed to Great Britain where they boarded trans-Atlantic ships at ports such as Liverpool, London and Glasgow. Immigrants from Europe destined for western Canada landed at ports on the east coast, then continued their journey by train. Ships arriving on the west coast carried passengers from Asia, Australia and Honolulu.

Contained in the collection are records for a number of ships which tragically never made it to their final Canadian destinations, including that of RMS The Empress of Ireland, a passenger ship which was rammed in dense fog on the St Lawrence River near Quebec on the 29th of May 1914 and sank in just 14 minutes. 1,012 passengers and crew drowned – a larger loss of life than when RMS Titanic sank.

Individual records include information such as the passenger's first and last name, estimated birth year, year of arrival, port of arrival and departure, ship name, occupation, final destination in Canada and other family members listed with their relationship indicated.

Josh Hanna, Senior Vice President of Ancestry, International comments: “This is the first time that these important records have been brought together in one place online, making them accessible to so many; they will be of significance to literally millions of Canadians who want to know when their ancestors first came to Canada and how far they came.”

“Due to the internet, family history is a rapidly growing interest among Canadians and Ancestry.ca is proud to play an important role in preserving and making important Canadian historical records accessible online.”

Digitizing and indexing the collection took approximately 83,000 man hours, or the equivalent of a person working 24 hours a day, seven days a week for almost 10 years.

In addition to being a treasure trove of information on one's ancestors, enthusiasts can also find names and images of records of some of Canada's and the world's most famous politicians and personalities, as well as the anonymous ancestors of some of today's biggest names. Some came as immigrants and others as visitors, including (images of records available for media use):

– Tommy Douglas – “The Greatest Canadian” arrived in St. John as an 11 year-old with his mother and sisters on the SS Scandinavian on 10 January 1919.

– Lord Stanley of Preston – The namesake of the Stanley Cup appears as 'Hon. A Stanley', arriving in Quebec on the SS Sarmatian on 13 August 1888, the year prior to being named Governor General of Canada.

– Richard Palamountain – The maternal grandfather of Donald S. Cherry, he was listed as 'R. Palamountain', arriving on a hospital ship called the SS Llandovery Castle in Halifax on 29 Sep 1917 suffering from Nephritis. He received a citation for his courageous efforts at the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

– Winston Churchill – The future British PM visited Canada with his son Randolph, brother John and his nephew, also John, arriving in Montreal aboard RMS The Empress of Australia on 9 August 1929.

– Charlie Chaplin – The famous star of the silent screen and one of the biggest celebrities of the era arrived in Vancouver onboard the Hikawa Maru on 13 June 1932 from Hong Kong via Yokohama. He lists his occupation as 'Actor' with an intended final destination of 'Hollywood, California'.

– John Turner – Following the tragic death of his father in England, the future Prime Minister immigrated to Halifax as a two year-old on HMS Montclare on 29 February 1932.

– Albert Grey, The 4th Earl of Grey – The former Governor General and namesake for the CFL's Grey Cup arrived in Quebec City on 21 July 1910. The record lists him as 'Earl Grey' with occupation listed as 'Governor General'.

– Juho Hyytiainen – A great-grandfather of Pamela Anderson, Juho first left Finland in 1908, changing his name to Anderson upon arrival onboard RMS The Andania in Quebec on 30 August 1913. He declared that he was a 'Labourer' and 'Single'.

Canadians will also be interested in other famous names to appear in the collection including Alexander Graham Bell, Fred Varley, HG Wells, Stanley Baldwin, Prince Henry, Prince Pierre of Monaco and numerous other world leaders.

The Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 will be available to Canada and World Deluxe members and through a 14-day free trial and can be viewed at www.ancestry.ca/CAPassengerLists.


Ancestry.ca was launched in January 2006 and has 400 million Canadian names in such collections as the 1851, 1891, 1901, 1906 and 1911 Censuses of Canada, Ontario and British Columbia vital records from as early as 1813, Quebec vital records (The Drouin collection), 1621-1957 and U.S. / Canada Border Crossings from 1895 to 1956.

Ancestry.ca is part of the global network of Ancestry websites (wholly owned by The Generations Network Inc.), which contains seven billion names in 26,000 historical record collections. To date more than 6.5 million family trees have been created and 650 million names and 10 million photographs uploaded. 6.5 million unique visitors logged on to an Ancestry website in June 2008.(2)

The Ancestry global network of family history websites: www.ancestry.ca in Canada, www.ancestry.co.uk in the UK, www.ancestry.com.au in Australia, www.ancestry.com in the US, www.ancestry.de in Germany, www.ancestry.it in Italy, www.ancestry.fr in France, www.ancestry.se in Sweden and www.jiapu.cn in China.

(1) Between 1865-1935, 5.675 million people came into Canada as immigrants (Canadian census data) – the vast majority (95%+) of which came from outside North America by boat – therefore included on these passenger lists. Taking into account births, deaths and emigration, this population of non-American immigrants totalled 6.3 million by 1935 and has since naturally grown into a total population of 11.6 million, making up 37% of today's population – more than one in three Canadians. Full data tables available upon request.

(2) comScore, Unique Visitors, June 2008