Alberta Cultural Groups

From FamilySearch Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Alberta Wiki Topics
Alberta Flag.png
Beginning Research
Record Types
Alberta Background
Cultural Groups
Local Research Resources


Asians[edit | edit source]

  • By 1921, only 3,500 Chinese and Japanese, a mere 200 of them women, were in Alberta. They were located primarily in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge and operated small businesses such as restaurants or laundries.

Black Canadians[edit | edit source]

  • Some Black Canadians trace their ancestry to people who fled racism in Oklahoma, Texas, and other southern states in the early 1900s as part of the Great Migration out of the rural South, building new homesteads and communities – often block settlements – in Alberta and Saskatchewan just after they became provinces in 1905. Examples include Amber Valley, Campsie, Junkins (now Wildwood) and Keystone (now Breton) in Alberta'
  • Between 1909 and 1911, over 1500 African Americans emigrated from Oklahoma as farmers and moved to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. Black Oklahomans and other black farmers from the Southern United States would applied to homestead in Amber Valley, Alberta.
  • According to the 2006 Census by Statistics Canada, 783,795 Canadians identified as Black, constituting 2.5% of the entire Canadian population. Alberta was one of the five most black-populated provinces. Calgary and Edmonton were one of the 10 most black-populated census metropolitan areas.

British[edit | edit source]

  • In the early 1880s, a party of Methodists from London, Ontario settled in the Red Deer area.
  • There was sporadic homesteading by Ontarians from the early 1880s. In 1892, it was supplemented by 289 Anglo-Saxons from Parry Sound, Ontario. They moved into an area east of Edmonton, near Bremner, Fort Saskatchewan and the Beaver Hills areas near Lamont. They were soon joined by another 630 new settlers from Parry Sound.
  • A change in the Minister of the Interior in 1906 resulted in a subtle change in immigration policy on the prairies. Clifford Sifton, who initiated the settlement of the Canadian west, believed that farmers—any farmers—were the most successful settlers and was prepared to promote Canada in Eastern European countries to get them. Although immigration programs ran in Britain, urban folk were not encouraged to come. Frank Oliver, who took over the post, firmly believed that the British way of life had to be retained and strengthened; consequently the promotion of British immigration was stepped up.
  • The effort was reasonably successful. By 1911, over half of Albertans were of English ancestry. A number of the British immigrants were the sons of the well-to-do, seeking adventure in the ‘colonies.’ However, the majority were coal miners, shopkeepers or general labourers. They settled in the southern portion of the province: Millardville and Priddis, Pincher Creek, and the coal mining areas of the Crowsnest. Some settled slightly north near Pine Lake and Alex, east of Red Deer.
  • In 1903, a very large party of 1,964 English settlers who made their home in the Lloydminster area. The Barr Colonists were led by Reverend Isaac Barr, who proved to be a poor and unorganized leader. Reverend George Lloyd took over the colony and saved it from certain failure. In spite of the many hardships they faced and, in most cases, their complete lack of experience in farming, the colonists established the town of Lloydminster and most proved sturdy settlers.
  • After World War I, rural-bound immigrants opened up new land in unused parts of the province, especially in the Peace River country. Joining them were businessmen, tradesmen, artisans and laborers. Although they immigrated as individuals or as a family, they often chose settlements in areas populated by other members of their family or countrymen. By far the largest numbers came from Britain, with the British government actually subsidizing emigration.

Dutch[edit | edit source]

  • Dutch Immigrant Genealogy Resources
  • Although the Dutch settled all across the Prairie Provinces, there were also a few community settlements created, such as those at New Nijverdal (now Monarch), Alberta, Neerlandia, Alberta, and Edam, Saskatchewan. These people owned their own farms or ranches or worked as farm hands. Many others settled in and around the larger cities of Edmonton, Calgary, and Winnipeg.
  • Another large wave of Dutch immigration began in 1947 following the end of the Second World War. Many of these migrants came from the agricultural sector, but there were also large numbers of skilled laborers and professionals, as well as war brides. The primary destination for most of these immigrants was Ontario and urban centers in the Western provinces. Although the immigration of Dutch peoples slowed after the 1950s, it would never fully cease as people continue to arrive in Canada in lesser numbers to this day. The population of people of Dutch descent today in Canada is approximately one million.[1]

French Settlers[edit | edit source]

  • In the early 1870s a few French-Canadians took land adjacent to the Catholic Mission at St. Albert as did a couple of former traders with the Hudson’s Bay Company.
  • With the influx of new settlers in the 1890s, the Catholic Church perceived the need to add to the population of French-Canadian Catholics if they were to retain any influence in the province. Bishop Vital Grandin and Father Albert Lacombe led the quest for French speaking settlers early in the 1880s with only limited success. Québec clergy encouraged their parishioners to stay, and those who felt compelled to leave because of economic reasons, chose to go south to work in the mills of New England. However, in 1891, Father Morin brought 65 French-Canadians by train to Calgary, then to Morinville, north of Edmonton, by wagon. In subsequent years, other French-Canadians moved into Alberta, mostly small family groups encouraged by previous settlers. There were also small groups of French and Belgians and some repatriated French from Michigan. Strong French communities are Beaumont, Villeneuve, St. Paul, Bonnyville, Rivière Qui Barre, Vimy, Pickardville and Legal.
  • In 1903, A group of French military families settled in the Trochu area and remained there until 1914. When the outbreak of World War I threatened their native France, most of them returned to fight for their country.
  • A few French speaking Belgians joined the French communities around St. Albert. In 1912, Father Giroux brought a group from Québec and settled the town of Girouxville north of Grande Prairie.

German Settlers[edit | edit source]

  • In 1889, Germans, fleeing financial persecution in Austria, moved into Alberta to join a much smaller group who had settled in the Pincher Creek area in 1883. This second group, part of an even larger contingent who had settled in Saskatchewan, had been given large areas of land around Medicine Hat, but within two years decided that the arid land was not to their liking. Most moved northward to more favourable conditions. In 1891 and 1892, these settlers created the new communities of Rosenthal near Stony Plain and Haffnungen near Leduc, and located in the Horse Hills and Fort Saskatchewan areas. Many of their compatriots joined the original German immigrants over the years through to 1914. Today, many communities bear German names: Josephburg, Bruderheim, Bruderfield. In addition, Germans settled in many existing communities: Rabbit Hill, Wetaskiwin, Beaver Lake, Lacombe, Gull Lake and Sylvan Lake.
  • German immigration accelerated after 1896 with most choosing rural, church centered communities. However, few came directly from Germany: most were German speaking people from Eastern Europe and Russia. Some of these came via Manitoba and the United States.
  • Immigration from Germany and Eastern European countries ceased almost completely during World War I, then rebounded somewhat between 1920 and 1929.
  • Between World War I and World War II, there was an increasing number of German speaking immigrants: refugees from Russia and other parts of the world.

Hutterites[edit | edit source]

  • Hutterites came during World War I. As pacifists, they felt compelled to leave their homes in the U.S. and in 1918, after negotiating with the Canadian government to have their pacifist beliefs honoured, ten colonies were established in Alberta.

Jewish Settlers[edit | edit source]

  • A small group of Jewish settlers came to Alberta in 1893, however, they did not fare well. Gathered from the slums of Chicago and literally dropped off near Ghostpine Lake with a few tools, they were unable to meet the challenge of breaking and taming the raw land. Most returned to the States. For the most part, the few Jewish settlers in the province established themselves in the major communities: Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge, where they opened businesses of all kinds. By 1911, Vegreville also had a small Jewish community which grew to almost 60 people by 1921.
  • The exception were two farming communities. In 1906, a group of seventeen people began farming near Trochu. Another group joined them a year later and settled just east at Rumsey. Most of these settlers were from the Gomel area of Russia. The second settlement was in Sibbald, in east central Alberta. Settled in 1911 by Jews leaving North Dakota, the community was in the heart of the Palliser Triangle and by the end of the Dirty Thirties, only five Jewish families had survived the drought and depression.

Latter-day Saint Settlers[edit | edit source]

  • It was not until 1887 that the first group of settlers moved into Alberta. This was a group of 40 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), who took land between the Belly and St. Mary Rivers in southern Alberta. Coming up from the United States, they brought with them a working knowledge of irrigation and immediately set to work digging ditches and canals to make the dry prairie land usable.
  • By 1901, these original settlers had been joined by another 3,200 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) from the U.S., all settling in the southern part of the province around Raymond, Magrath, and Cardston.
  • By 1906, the large ranches of Southern Alberta were being broken up and the land made available under the Homestead Act. The Hudson’s Bay Company and Canadian Pacific Railroad were sold and homesteads were let. The giant Cochrane Ranch, west of Calgary, sold 106,500 acres to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).
Green check.png
The usage of "Mormon" and "LDS" on this page is approved according to current policy.

Mennonite Settlers[edit | edit source]

  • Other German speaking immigrants were the Mennonites: German Swiss coming from the U.S. or Ontario. Some settled in the Didsbury area but they were not inclined to settle in blocs and so integrated within established communities.
  • The first Mennonites came to Alberta in 1889, but in 1894 a much larger contingent settled in the Lacombe area and east to Tail Creek and Buffalo Lake.

Métis[edit | edit source]

Archive, Libraries, and Museum[edit | edit source]

Glenbow Archive, Library, and Museum

Contact: Glenbow Archives
130 - 9 Avenue
SE Calgary, Alberta T2G 0P3
Reference Desk telephone: 403-268-4204

The Glenbow Archives and Library, has an excellent collection of resources for the study of Métis genealogy. Their sources cover predominantly Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and some parts of the Northwest Territories, Ontario, and British Columbia.
Most of our sources pertain to people who were living in the Prairie Provinces in 1900 or earlier.

One unique collection is the Gail Morin database. The collection consists of a database of 65,434 records of persons who were Metis ancestors. For each individual, dates and places of birth, baptism, marriage, death, and burial, and notes on sources are given if known. Using Ancestral Quest software, the data can be linked to show genealogical relationships in the form of pedigree charts and descendancy charts. The database is available only with the assistance of the Archives staff in the reading room of the Glenbow Archives. The database is fully searchable online.

  • The Métis are a multi ancestral indigenous group whose homeland is in Canada and parts of the United States between the Great Lakes region and the Rocky Mountains. The Métis trace their descent to both Indigenous North Americans and European settlers (primarily French). Not all people of mixed Indigenous and Settler descent are Métis, as the Métis are a distinct group of people with a distinct culture and language. Since the late 20th century, the Métis in Canada have been recognized as a distinct Indigenous people under the Constitution Act of 1982 and have a population of 587,545 as of 2016.
  • During the height of the North American fur trade in New France from 1650 onward, many French and British fur traders married First Nations and Inuit women, mainly Cree, Ojibwa, or Saulteaux located in the Great Lakes area and later into the north west.
  • The majority of these fur traders were French and Scottish; the French majority were Catholic.
  • These marriages are commonly referred to as marriage à la façon du pays or marriage according to the "custom of the country."
  • At first, the Hudson's Bay Company officially forbade these relationships. However, many Indigenous peoples actively encouraged them, because they drew fur traders into Indigenous kinship circles, creating social ties that supported the economic relationships developing between them and Europeans. When Indigenous women married European men, they introduced them to their people and their culture, taught them about the land and its resources, and worked alongside them. Indigenous women paddled and steered canoes, made moccasins out of moose skin, netted webbing for snowshoes, skinned animals and dried their meat.
  • The children of these marriages were often introduced to Catholicism, but grew up in primarily First Nations societies. As adults, the men often worked as fur-trade company interpreters, as well as fur trappers in their turn.
  • Many of the first generations of Métis lived within the First Nations societies of their wives and children, but also started to marry Métis women.
  • By the early 19th century, marriage between European fur traders and First Nations or Inuit women started to decline as European fur traders began to marry Métis women instead, because Métis women were familiar with both white and Indigenous cultures, and could interpret.[2]

Métis Settlements of Alberta[edit | edit source]

The Métis settlements in Alberta are the only recognized land base of Métis in Canada. They are governed by the Métis Settlements General Council (MSGC), also known as the "All-Council". The MSGC holds land title to 1.25 million acres of land, making it the largest land holder in the province, other than the Crown in the Right of Alberta. The Métis settlements consist of predominantly Indigenous Métis populations native to Northern Alberta.

Scandinavian Settlers[edit | edit source]

  • 1891 saw the arrival of a small group of Icelanders who settled in Markerville, West of Red Deer. This was to be the only Icelandic community in the province and was made up of people who had settled earlier in Wisconsin or Manitoba.
  • In 1892 and 1893, two groups of Scandinavians settled in Alberta. The first were from Minnesota and the Dakotas in the U.S. who traveled to Alberta by wagon and settled in the Limestone Lake area. The second group came from Europe and settled on 300 square miles, eight townships, east of Wetaskiwin. Over the next two years three more groups came, settling in Bardo, west of Stony Plain, west of Camrose and along the Burnt Lake Trail near Red Deer.
  • Scandinavians continued to be considered excellent immigrants and in the decade between 1901-1911, they were by far the greatest number of new settlers. Some came from the U.S. and most chose to settle in central Alberta. Although they tended not to settle in blocs, many congregated in areas where there was a church and the support of others:
  • Danes in the Standard and Dalum areas
  • Swedes in Scandia
  • Norwegians in Claresholm
  • In the Prairie provinces, the first Danish immigrants came from the American Midwest and Northwest. The community of Dickson in Alberta, founded in 1902, is the oldest Danish community in the Prairies.

Ukrainian Settlers[edit | edit source]

  • In 1891, Ukrainians also sought new land in Alberta. Many were from the province of Galatia in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, in fact, had been neighbors of the Austrian Germans who settled in the Fort Saskatchewan and Josephburg areas. By 1895, the number of Ukrainians immigrating to Alberta had increased considerably. They occupied some 2,000 square miles of land in the Beaverhill Lake, Whitford Lake and Willingdon areas. By 1905 their numbers had spread east as far as Vermillion and Vegreville.
  • Ukrainians, particularly from the provinces of Galicia and Bukovina, and Poles from Galacia continued coming to Canada prior to World War I. Between 1896 and 1914 over 170,000 Ukrainians joined their compatriots settling in a wide swath north and east of Edmonton.

United States Emigration[edit | edit source]

Also widely promoted and encouraged were immigrants from the U.S. Not only were they of the more desirable British or western European ancestry, but they brought with them a practical experience in farming, and often their own machinery. Between 1898 and 1914 over 600,000 Americans, primarily from the Midwestern states, moved north into Alberta. Some were expatriates, about one-third were European immigrants. They came both individually and in groups.

Other Europeans[edit | edit source]

  • Hungarians, Slovaks and Czechs, mostly coal miners and labourers, came to southern Alberta, as did Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians.
  • Doukabours left Russia to escape military conscription and religious persecution. In 1899, 7,000 Doukabours came to Canada to settle in Saskatchewan. Some of these then traveled west to British Columbia and others stopped in the Alberta foothills near Cowley and Lundbreck.
  • After 1900, a few Greeks, Italians and Arabs joined the flood of immigrants. As they generally were not farmers, they were not encouraged. Those who came joined the railroad crews, worked in the mines or on construction. The exception was two small groups of Italians who successfully farmed north of Edmonton in the Naples and Venice districts.

References and Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  • Brunvand, Jan Harold, Norwegian Settlers in Alberta. National Museum of Man, National Museum of Canada, Ottawa, 1974.
    No. 8 in the Mercury Series: Canadian Centre for Folk Culture Studies, details the project which studied the traditional culture and folklore of Norwegians settlers in the Camrose/New Norway/Viking area. Includes interviews with first to third generations.
  • Dempsey, Hugh A. (ed), The Rundle Journals—1840-1848. Historical Society of Alberta and Glenbow-Alberta Institute 1977.
  • Frieson, Gerald,The Canadian Prairies: A History. University of Toronto Press; Toronto and London, 1984.
  • Kaye, Vladimir, Dictionary of Ukrainian Canadian Biography of Pioneer Settlers of Alberta 1891-1900. Ukrainian Publishers Asson of Alberta, 1984.
    Recovered facts about Ukrainian families who came to Canada including family information about birth place, date of migration, place of settlement, marriage, children and time of death.
  • Krontki, Joanna E., Local Histories of Alberta: An Annotated Bibliography, 2nd ed. Department of Slavic and East European Studies, University of Alberta, and Central and East European Studies Society of Alberta, 1983.
    Published as part of the Monographs, Papers and Reports: Central and East European ethno-cultural Groups in Alberta Study Project, co-ordinated by T. Yedlin, this book is a valuable resource for seeking ancestors in rural Alberta. Local histories of all descriptions are listed alphabetically by author or society, with details on their contents. These are then cross-referenced through five Subject Indexes: by place name; by ethno-cultural and religious groups; church histories and denominations; school, college and university histories; and hospital histories. A title index and appendix follow. Although the 1983 publishing date misses anything printed after this date, it does include the plethora of local histories compiled during and following Canada’s centennial.
  • MacGregor, James, G., A History of Alberta. Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton, Alberta, 1972.
  • Martynowych, Orest T., The Ukrainian Bloc Settlement in East Central Alberta, 1890-1930: A History. Alberta Culture, Historica Sites Service, Occasional Paper No. 10, 1985.
  • Palmer, Howard and Tamara (eds), Peoples of Alberta: Portraits of Cultural Diversity. Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1985.
    Details the settlement patterns of fifteen ethnic groups, including minorities such as Asians, Jews, and Blacks. Also looks at the settlement by Ontarians in Alberta.
  • Swyripa, Frances,The Ukrainian Bloc in East Central Alberta 1976 (Provincial Archives of Alberta Library).
    Report submitted to the Director, Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village, Alberta Culture. Written in six small volumes, this report looks in detail at Ukrainian settlement in Alberta.
• Volume 1 describes history of immigration, geographical areas of Ukrainian concentration, settlement, language, religion and communities.
• Volume 2 describes communities along the Canadian National Railroad line (1905-1906) with businesses and economic development.
• Volume 3 describes communities along the Northern Alberta Railroad line (1917) with businesses and economic development.
• Volume 4 describes communities along the Canadian National Railroad line (1918-1919) (Edmonton to St. Paul des Métis) with businesses and economic development.
• Volume 5 describes communities along the Canadian Pacific Railroad line (1927-1928) with businesses and economic development.
• Volumes 2, 3, 4 and 5 include names of proprietors, churches, social and cultural organizations and activities.
• Volume 6 lists rural communities alphabetically.[3]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Dutch", at Library and Archives Canada,, accessed 1 December 2020.
  2. "Métis Nation", Wikipedia,, accessed 25 October 2020.
  3. Borgstede, Arlene. "Alberta Bibliography (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012),