Many immigrants to Canada came from the United States or sailed from Europe to American ports on their way to Canada. Prior to April 1908, people were able to move freely across the border from the United States into Canada; no record of immigration exists for those individuals.
Not all immigrants crossing the border were registered. Some crossed when the ports were closed or where no port existed. Many families were not registered because one or both parents had been born in Canada or previously resided here, and they were considered Returning Canadians rather than immigrants.
The Government of Canada did not keep records of people leaving the country.
Research at Library and Archives Canada
Border entry lists (RG 76) were the official record of immigration; there are no immigrant applications or files. These records contain genealogical information about each immigrant such as age, country of birth, last place of residence, occupation and destination in Canada.
About the Records
The lists are arranged by border port and date of entry. If you do not know those details, you must search these unindexed lists port by port and month by month for the appropriate region.
From January 1919 to the end of 1924, individual forms (Form 30) were used to record immigrants entering Canada from or via the United States. This series also includes a few forms from later years.
In 1925, the use of border entry lists was reinstated. For each month, the records for all ports are filed together. These records contain more details, such as:
A series of old nominal indexes exists for the years 1925-1935. Since the indexes include post-1935 entries, which are closed under the Privacy Act, the public cannot consult them.
Entries for surnames starting with C were input into our Immigration Records (1925-1935) database. For other surnames, our staff will undertake searches in the indexes, if sufficient identifying details, including year of entry, are provided. Note that the records for January to March 1925 are not indexed; however, individual Form 30 records are available for those months in addition to the border entry lists by port.
Research in Other Institutions
Border entry records After 1935 are in the custody of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
Border Crossings from Canada into the United States
In 1895, the United States established border ports along the Canada-United States border and began recording arrivals from Canada. These lists, called the St. Albans Lists, are in the custody of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in the United States. A soundex-format index is also available. A description of the records and a list of NARA microfilm reelnumbers are provided on the following NARA Web page.
By Way of Canada: U.S. Records of Immigration Across the U.S. Canadian Border,1895-1954 (St. Albans Lists) [www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2000/fall/ us-canada-immigration-records-1.html]
Microfilm copies of those records are also available through your local Family History CenterTM.
Library and Archives Canada does not hold copies of those records.
Research in Published Sources
Consult our Bibliography for further information on this topic.