Canada’s leading family history website has completed the online launch of the Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935with records documenting the arrival into Canada of more than 750,000 individuals between 1919 and 1924.
The only online source for these records, Ancestry.ca now provides access to the largest collection of immigration records to Canada – more than eight million records in total – from the key growth period of 1865 to 1935.
The records from Ocean Arrivals, 1919-1924, the originals of which are held by the Library and Archives Canada, can be searched online at Ancestry.ca by ship name, port of departure, passenger name, birth year, gender and place, date and port of arrival.
The majority of the records originate from the ports of Quebec, St. John and Halifax, the key ports of entry at the time for ships coming from Europe, with the western ports of Vancouver and Victoria accounting for nearly 50,000 records of individual passengers, mainly from Australia and the Far East. Another several thousand records originate from Montreal, Sydney and North Sydney.
Unlike many of the passenger lists from before or after this period, the records from Ocean Arrivals, 1919-1924 consist of individual passenger manifests, as opposed to ship manifests.
As a result, the records provide many more personal details on arriving individuals than had previously been required, which reflects the ‘culture of fear’, mistrust and the overriding anti-foreign sentiment that existed in Canada during this post First World War period.
Because of the changing social and political global landscape, in 1919 the Canadian government introduced the Immigration Act, which was used to bar entry to anyone whose nation of origin had been an enemy to Canada during the First World War.
More significantly, the Act was also used to deny entry to groups of people whose ideologies were in conflict with that of the government of the time – specifically groups of individuals from countries with a growing socialist and anti-democratic bent. The requirements for admittance became much stricter, with immigration officials insisting on as many details as possible about entrants.
In addition to information about the ship and port of origin, incoming passengers were now also questioned about their religion, their reason for coming to Canada, how much money they had in their possession, their ability to read and if they had ever been declared insane or suffered from epilepsy or tuberculosis. Further, a physical description of the passenger was entered along with the passenger’s own signature.
Prior to this Act, people arriving from most of Western Europe were deemed acceptable for immigration into Canada, with others accepted into the country only if the government considered that their skills would be of use.
For example, with the desire to grow and populate Canada’s western frontiers, the government allowed hundreds of thousands of immigrants to arrive from Eastern European nations through the 1800s. These were people with the skills required to farm the land and endure the harsh climate and lifestyle of the yet untamed Prairies.
“The amount of information about the passengers in these records is almost unseen in any other immigration record worldwide,” said Karen Peterson, Marketing Director, Ancestry.ca. “You can truly travel back in time and know exactly what your ancestors looked like when they arrived to start a new life in Canada, and know the reasons, from their own testament, as to why they came.
“By making this important collection of Canadian immigration records available online, everyone can now discover their personal family story, and also understand where and why it sits within the bigger story about our country’s history and growth, when so many came from around the world to start a new life in Canada.”