Finding an Irish Ancestor Using Canadian Records

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Notes on Immigration[edit | edit source]

The Irish emigration to Canada began as early as the late 17th Century but did not truly take root until 18th Century. Irish immigration into Canada really escalated at the turn of the 19th Century immediately following the Napoleonic Wars. Once the wars had ended in 1805, the governemnt restricted immigration from the United States and encouraged immigration from the British Isles and Ireland.  The most significant ports for Canada included Grosse Ilse, and the City of Quebec, Montreal in the Province of Quebec, St. John's, New Brunswick, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. From 1894, steamship and railroads advertized to potential immigrants to the United States to instead sail into Canadian ports, and then gain entry  U.S. ports of entries into the United States to lessen the hassles of the larger U.S. ports such as New York. Therefore, the Port of St Albans, Vermont ship lists become a valuable record source for tracing immigrants (but not all) to the United States but who came through Canadian ports of entry to arrive here.

Ports of embarkation and ports of call of Irish emigrants' included the Belfast, Waterford, Cork, Dublin, Liverpool, Southampton, Bristol, and London--time period depending.

The (English) Crown government's austere laws, i.e. Penal Act of 1695 drove many native Irishmen from their lands, and out onto the streets or countryside, and also caused many Irish families with the means to do so, to emigrate. Catholic and Protestant families appear in Catholic and Protestant church records throughout Canada and their names appear in all types and kinds of genealogical records in Canada.

Emigration Timeline[edit | edit source]

Late 1600's: some Ulster-Scots emigration into some Eastern Canada settlements

1760: A few thousand Ulster (Protestant) Irish settled lands vacated by Acadians in Nova Scotia.

1815: After the close of the Napoleonic wars in Europe, many immigrants settled along the St. Lawrence River. Although many immigrants were "late Loyalists" with many English settlers.

1815–1850:Greatest immigration was from Scotland and Ireland to Atlantic colonies. A few thousand came each year. After the year 1818, an influx of Protestant Irish began in Upper Canada.

1830s: The great Irish immigration took place, especially to New Brunswick.

1846–1850s: During the Famine Migration from Ireland, tens of thousands settled farms and towns of Upper and Lower Canada. The effect of the Irish immigration into Canada's population within such a short span of time was enormous. At the height of the Great Famine years--1847 and 1848, the lingering sickness, disease and poverty adversely affected Canada's local populations in or surrounding its port towns.

How to Use This Page[edit | edit source]

The following records listed below may more quickly assist researchers in finding more about their Irish immigrant ancestors in Canada (see links). The "Canada" Wiki and these sources listed here should be helpful guides in research. Among the most useful of Canadian records which researchers should first seek in order to learn the specific place of birth or place of their Irish origins, the following records should be sought and used:

vital records - standard format of statutory certificates require parents’ names, specific place and date of birth

church records - sometimes provide Irish place-name or parent names information

obituaries - may provide clarifying place-name of Irish origins, birth information

passenger lists - occasionally provide specific Ireland place-name

tombstones - may provide clarifying information on specific Ireland place of birth

naturalization - may provide at least the Ireland county name of origin

Other "indexed" original records may include:

census - in occasional instances may provide more than just "Ireland" as birthplace

local (county & township) histories - sometimes provide birth information on emigrants

military - as part of the old British Commonwealth, some Irish were listed and recorded in British Army and other military records; almost always provide specfic place of birth and sometimes parentage

notarial records - in Quebec may provide some place of origin data

newspaper articles - may give personal accounts of tragedy, and more about immigrant ancestors

funeral home records, where available

biographies - especially documented, may provide parentage and birthplace information

merchant marine - Canada was part of the British maritime and records reside in Great Britain. The records give birthplace data and more

Social Security Death Index – Form SS-5—“Social Security Number Record Third Party Request for Photocopy” - birth

For a more in-depth study on Canadian records which researchers should first seek in order to learn the specific place of birth or their Irish origins, see also the Canada Wiki for the province in which your Irish immigrant came to settle. Also, see an article entitled, "A Checklist of Compiled Sources and Where to Find Them" which also provides numerous online and other resources holding vast numbers of family names with compiled information about them.

Usually those who enlisted to serve--especially before 1829, were Protestant because from early years, the British military disallowed Roman Catholic Irish from filling its army and navy ranks.

Records at the National Archives Canada

Records of the Military include: pensions, commissioned and non-commissioned officers' service records, prisoner lists, hospital records, army lists, officers' lists, medal awards, courts martial, muster books and paylists, etc.