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Scots

Scots began arriving to Canada as early as the early seventeenth century. Sir William Alexander obtained permission from King James I to establish a Scottish settlement in 1622 named New Scotland or Nova Scotia. The colony failed to flourish, however, and few families settled in Canada before the British conquest in 1759. The majority of these early Scottish settlers were Roman Catholics seeking political and religious refuge, fur traders with the Hudson's Bay Company, merchants and disbanded soldiers.

After this early period there were also a number of Highland farmers who emigrated from Scotland after being ejected from their land to make way for sheep grazing. The primary destinations for these early settlers were agricultural communities in Upper Canada, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Cape Breton Island had a significant Scottish population, Gaelic being the only language spoken there. Scottish Loyalists arrived in Canada from the United States in 1783 and settled mainly in Glengarry, Upper Canada, and Nova Scotia. Lord Selkirk also settled over 800 Scottish migrants in Prince Edward Island in 1803 and placed many others in his Red River settlement in Manitoba in 1812. By 1815, there were already more than 15,000 Scots living in Canada.

Between 1815 and 1870, over 170,000 Scots immigrated, with increasing numbers settling in Quebec and Ontario, notably in Lanark County. They were a widely-varied group, including Highlanders and Lowlanders, farmers, teachers, merchants, clergymen and servants. Many were Presbyterian and English speaking. Many Scots were encouraged and supported by the British government and private companies in their effort to emigrate.

Scottish immigration to Canada continued into the twentieth century and increased the Scottish population to over 1 million by 1930. Most of these later Scottish migrants were farmers and farm labourers coming from the Lowland regions, while fewer Highlanders emigrated during that period. There were also many more industrial workers coming after 1900, many in the iron and steel industries. The primary destination for this later settlement of Scots was western Canada, with Manitoba receiving the largest numbers.

After the First World War, many Scots were able to gain passage to Canada under the Empire Settlement Act. Immigration from Scotland to Canada continued in large numbers throughout the twentieth century and between 1945 and 1993 approximately 260 000 settled in Canada. Today, there are approximately 4 million Canadians of Scottish heritage.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files (RG 76)

  • Glasgow Juvenile Delinquency Board - Girls Industrial School, Glasgow, RG 76, volume 119, file 22468, microfilm C-4782. File includes a list of children sent to Saint John, New Brunswick, between 1895 and 1906.
  • Fifteen Parish trainees from Glasgow allocated to Toronto, 1927, Glasgow Training Scheme. RG 76, volume 323, file 310968, microfilm C-10236.
  • Alexander McOwen, Virden, Manitoba - Special immigration agent to Scotland, 1904-1906, RG 76, volume 337, file 350610, microfilm C-10247. File includes list of names.
  • Mackay Brothers, booking agent lists, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1915-1922. RG 76, volume 362, file 453045, microfilm C-10264.
  • Mackay Brothers & Company, booking agent lists, Aberdeen, Scotland, 1910-1921. RG76, volume 564, file 809010, microfilm C-10644.
  • Group of 27 labourers sent from from Leith, Scotland, 1906. RG 76, volume 367, file 484243, microfilm C-10268.
  • Party from Stornoway sent out by the Queen Alexandra's Unemployed Fund, 1906. RG 76, volume 377, file 522409, microfilm C-10275.
  • J. Bruce Walker, Commissioner of Immigration, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Letters from successful "Scotch" ploughmen, 1908-1911. RG 76, volume 548, file 805711, microfilm C-10633.
  • H.W.J. Paton, Aberdeen, Scotland, booking agent, farm hands and domestics, lists, 1908-1921. RG 76, volume 538, file 803839, microfilm C-10627.
  • Alexander Wyllie, Glasgow, Scotland. Bonus claims, lists, 1907-1909. RG 76, volume 415, file 601089, microfilm C-10302.
  • D. Cumming, Glasgow, Scotland. Bonus claims, lists, 1907-1915, 1918. RG 76, volume 426, file 629453, microfilm C-10309.
  • D. McFarlane, Glasgow, Scotland. Booking agent, lists, 1907-1923. RG 76, volume 435, file 652806, microfilm C-10315.

Other series of Records

Library and Archives Canada also holds other private records regarding Scottish families. Consult the Archives Search database using keywords such as a surname or the name of an organization.

Research in Other Institutions

General Registrar Office for Scotland
[www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/]

Hudson's Bay Company Archives
[www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/]

National Archives of Scotland
[www.nas.gov.uk/familyHistory/]

National Library of Scotland
[www.nls.uk/]

Presbyterian Church in Canada Archives and Record Office
[www.presbyterianarchives.ca/]

Scottish Catholic Archives
[www.scottishcatholicarchives.org.uk/]

Scottish Genealogy Society
[www.scotsgenealogy.com/]

The United Church of Canada Archives
[www.united-church.ca/local/archives/on]

University of Guelph Scottish Studies Collection
[www.lib.uoguelph.ca/resources/archival_&_special_collections/the_collections
/digital_collections/scottish/]

Research in Published Sources

Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation by Donald Whyte.

Dictionary of Scottish Settlers in North America1625-1825 by David Dobson.

Finding your Scottish ancestors by Penelope Christensen.

Scottish Ancestry: Research Methods for Family Historians by Sherry Irvine.

The Scots in Canada, by J.M. Bumsted

Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors published by National Archives of Scotland.

Search for other books on Scots in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject keywords such as:

  • Scottish genealogy
  • Scottish Canadians
  • Highlanders
  • Scotland genealogy

Consult our Bibliography for further information on this topic.

Research Online

A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland (1846)
[www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=308]

AncestralScotland
[www.ancestralscotland.com/]

Canadian Scottish History
[www.electricscotland.com/Canada/index.htm]

Clan Fraser Society of Canada
[www.clanfraser.ca/]

FreeCEN
[www.freecen.org.uk/]

GEN UKI: Scotland
[www.genuki.org.uk/big/sct/]

Glasgow Poor Law Archives
[www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/Residents/Library_Services/The_Mitchell/Archives
/poorlawarchives.htm]

Maps of Scotland
[www.nls.uk/maps/index.html]

Saskatchewan GenWeb: Scottish Saskatchewan Genealogy Roots
[www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cansk/Saskatchewan/ethnic/scottish-
saskatchewan.html]

Scotlands Family
[www.scotlandsfamily.com/links.htm]

ScotlandsPeople
[www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk/]

Scots origins
[www.originsnetwork.com/SOWelcome.aspx]

Scottish Archive Network
[www.scan.org.uk/]

Scottish Documents
[www.scottishdocuments.com]