For family historians researching Canadian roots, the date and place of an ancestor's arrival in Canada is crucial information, providing a key chronological milestone against which to base research both in Canada and the country of origin. Records of immigration also provide important details such as age, place of origin and names of other family members.
The Vancouver Public Library collection includes many useful resources for researching Canadian passenger lists and border entry records. Additional records are available at other repositories. An extensive amount of historical immigration data can also be accessed online, together with digital images of original records.
Other primary sources of information on immigrant arrivals in Canada exist in addition to passenger lists and border entry records. Some of these sources are listed at the end.
This guide explores both official records of immigration to Canada as well as miscellaneous sources of immigrant arrival data prior to 1865. It also provides information on researching passenger arrival records for Canadian coastal ports as well as border entry records for overland arrivals from the United States. It does not consider border entry records for people who crossed from Canada to the United States. For information on people who came from the United States to Canada during the U.S. Revolutionary War, see the Loyalists section.
Official Canadian immigration records include:
Records do not begin until 1865 for ship passenger lists and 1908 for border entry records. Both are available to 1935. Form 30 and Form 30A only cover a period of approximately five years from 1919-1924.
|Note: In the context of immigration, “port of entry” does not necessarily refer to a location situated on a waterway, such as an ocean coast or river. It refers to a place where one may lawfully enter a country. Border posts, for example, are “ports of entry” even if they are located inland.|
These lists include only the names of passengers who intended to proceed directly to Canada. Extracts of U.S. manifests at the east coast ports of New York, Baltimore, Boston, Portland, Philadelphia and Providence were collected by the Canadian immigration service beginning in 1905.