From 1763 until the Canadian Citizenship Act [http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/showtdm/cs/C-29] came into force on January 1, 1947, , people born in Canada were British subjects. Thus, immigrants born in Great Britain and the Commonwealth, being British subjects by birth, had no need to be naturalized or to obtain British citizenship in Canada.
A number of earlier laws governed naturalization. Under these acts, aliens could petition for naturalization. If successful, they would swear allegiance to the British sovereign and would be granted the rights of someone born within the British Empire.
Many of these non-British immigrants did not speak English, and often had names that English speaking people had never before encountered. As well, they often had no firm plans as to where they would make their new homes in Canada. These factors pose major problems for today's genealogical researchers trying to trace the movements of their direct ancestors and other relatives. We may know whence they came, but it's not always known what names they used, and where they went.
The Government of Canada published detailed lists of those naturalized as stipulated by the Naturalization Act of 1914 and later acts. From 1915 to 1951, all naturalizations were published in the annual reports of the Secretary of State, who was responsible for naturalization, and in the Canada Gazette, an official publication reporting weekly on activities of the Government of Canada. Each entry typically included the person's name, country of origin, place of residence in Canada, and occupation. Names of wives and children were often included.
All naturalization certificates issued for the years 1915 to 1920 were published in the Secretary of State annual report of 1919-1920. In that report, the certificates were arranged by type and serial number. For the years 1921 to 1951, the lists appeared annually and the certificates were listed alphabetically by surname. In most years, there were some names added at the end of the list detailing supplementary lists or special cases such as revocations.
In all, the naturalization records of more than 200,000 immigrants to Canada from over 80 countries were documented in the nearly 4,000 pages published from 1915 to 1932. A Chart [PDF 29 KB] gives information about the number of people naturalized each year by country of origin. Nearly 90 years later, the decision to digitize these lists has allowed us to create this online resource relating to Canadian naturalization.
The lists of naturalizations published in the Secretary of State annual reports and in the Canada Gazette were recognized several years ago as being a valuable genealogical resource by a variety of people. Among them was an archivist from Library and Archives Canada who was the founding president of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Ottawa. At that time, however, the technology to make them available and usable online was not readily available. Genealogists did not broadcast news of this resource at that time due to fears that the fragile paper records could be subject to significant damage through frequent handling.
In 1997, the records were brought to the attention of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal by a political science professor. Through a combination of careful planning and luck, the two Jewish genealogical societies decided to work together to make this valuable resource more accessible to the public. The Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal assumed responsibility for digitization, and the Jewish Genealogical Society of Ottawa funded the project. The timing of the creation of the Genealogy and Family History was a perfect match for this project.
Read the Full Story [PDF 1,944 KB] of the "discovery" and digitization of these records in an article published in the Fall 2002 issue of Avotaynu [www.avotaynu.com], The International Review of Jewish Genealogy.
Based on the success of the release of the the original database in 2003, the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal decided to continue the digitization of the lists published after 1932 (partially funded by a grant from the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies).. Therefore, this database now includes a set of images searchable by month and year of publication in the Canada Gazette. The Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal is now indexing those lists by name in order to provide a full nominal index from 1915 to 1951. Should you wish to help, visit the Society's website at http://jgs-montreal.org/.