The National Archives of Canada holds passenger lists from 1865 to 1935 (Record Group 76, C 1). These lists constitute the official record of immigration to Canada in that period. Most are arranged by date and port of arrival. They include the names of all passengers: immigrants, returning Canadians, tourists, visitors and immigrants en route to the United States. They also include references to people who landed at American ports and indicated that they were proceeding directly to Canada.
A series of old nominal indexes exist for the period 1925 to 1935. They provide the volumes and page numbers on which the names of Canadian immigrants appear in the passenger lists. The indexes generally do not include the names of returning Canadians, tourists, visitors and immigrants en route to the United States. To locate those references, you must search the actual passenger lists.
The National Archives also holds lists of people entering Canada from or via the United States (Record Group 76, C 5). Those border entry records cover the period 1908 to 1935. Indexes exist for the years 1925 to 1935 only.
Click here to read more about passenger lists and border entry records.
In cooperation with Library and Archives Canada, the Pier 21 Society in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has input the information from the passenger list indexes into this database. The finished product is a result of the efforts of 22 hardworking young people at Pier 21 funded through Human Resources Development Canada and supported in part by the Donner Canadian Foundation. Two database teams entered and edited over 500,000 records in just 12 months. Many team members were recent immigrants themselves from Poland, China, Romania, Sudan, Brazil, South Korea, Cameroon, Egypt, El Salvador, Russia and the former Yugoslavia.
Click here [www.pier21.ca/about] to find out more about the Pier 21 Society.
The database also includes references from our border entry records,1925-1935, for individuals whose surname starts with the letter C.
The search screen contains five search fields: Surname, Given Name, Year of Arrival, Port of Arrival and Ship.
To search the database, enter any name or set of names separated by the appropriate logical connectors (consult the Search Syntax link for more information).
When entering a Surname and Given name, expect spelling variations. Use the $ wildcard in your search, for example, Sm$th for Smith/Smyth, Alex$ for Alexei/Alexander/Alexandre.
You can narrow your search by including additional search terms, but keep in mind that if your request is too specific you may rule out possibilities of which you are unaware. For example, the immigrant may have arrived at a different port or in a different year than the one you believe.
If you are certain of the Year of arrival, enter that year in the search field.
If you are certain of the Port of arrival, select it from the drop list provided, otherwise select All ports as your search term. The main ports of entry were Quebec, Halifax and Saint John.
If you know the name of the Ship on which the individual arrived, enter the shipís name in the search field.
When you have entered your search terms, click on Submit Query. The number of hits found will be shown at the top of the results screen.
Your search results will be posted as a summary list from which you will be able to obtain more detailed descriptions.
The results summary list, sorted by column, contains information that will allow you to rapidly assess how relevant the documents are that you found. Each page of the list describes 20 references, which is a default value that you can change. You can export the results to a diskette or to your own computer.
The description includes the following identifying details: surname, given name, age, nationality and year of arrival.
From that list, select the entries of interest to you. The first column is linked to the detailed description (see below). Clicking on the underlined name will bring you to the detailed description.
From the results summary list, you can consult one detailed description at a time. Each detailed description includes all or some of the sections described below.
Important note: Due to the poor legibility of many of the indexes, some information in this database may be incorrect and/or incomplete.
Surname: The immigrantís surname as it was recorded in the index.
Given name: The immigrantís given name as it was recorded in the index.
Age: The personís age at the time of arrival.
Sex: Male or female.
Nationality: The immigrantís nationality as recorded in the index. Abbreviations were used when the original indexes were compiled in the 1920s and 1930s. Unfortunately, no key to those abbreviations has been located; however, most are self-explanatory, for example Ir for Irish, Fi for Finnish.
Date of arrival: Date on which the ship landed.
Port of arrival: Port in Canada in which the ship landed. Note that some ships arrived at American ports and the immigrants traveled from there to their Canadian destination by train.
Ship: The name of the ship on which the individual arrived and the shipping line. Due to problems with the coding used in the original indexes, some entries list two ships, only one of which is correct. The correct ship can be found on the actual passenger list.
Reference: This citation gives Library and Archives Canada reference and indicates whether the record is a passenger list or border entry record.
Volume: Year and volume number in which the passenger list can be found.
Page: Page number on which the immigrantís name appears.
Microfilm reel: Microfilm reel on which the list appears.
Once you have located a reference of interest in the database, you might wish to view the actual passenger list, which contains other details such as port and date of departure, the immigrant's place of birth, the name and address of the relative, friend or employer to whom they were destined and the name and address of the nearest relative in the country from whence they came. The passenger lists from 1925 to 1935 have all been digitized and are now available online.
First note the arrival date, ship's name, volume, page and microfilm reel numbers and then consult Microform Digitization to view the actual page. You can easily print the images or save the images on your own computer.
Use the following link for other options such as borrowing microfilm.
Library and Archives Canada gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the Pier 21 Society (www.pier21.ca) without which this project would not have been possible.