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Canadian immigration records: Irish immigrants

Immigration ships
Canadian naturalisation
Immigrants from Ireland

Canadian immigration records


Grosse Ile
Surviving Canadian immigration records from the Grosse Isle
Quarantine Station cover only one five-year period: 1832-1837.


Which records survive?

While they date back to the 18th century, Canadian immigration records are something of a hit and miss affair because there was no requirement to either make or keep passenger and crew lists before 1865. Nor was there any uniformity of recording. So, while some surviving records are very useful, providing names, ages, places of birth and occupations for heads of household and accompanying family members, others merely record name and date of arrival of individuals.

Post 1865 the situation is much better. Canadian immigration records from this date provide plenty of great genealogy research data, and are reasonably easy to access, although sometimes only for a fee.

Where can they be accessed?
Below are details of the principal access points, together with a couple of smaller genealogy sites that may be of interest. Links to these sites are in the box to the right.


Ancestry: Having entered into an agreement with Libraries & Archives Canada, this huge subscription-based site holds a number of Canadian immigration records. The following collections are indexed, and digitised images can be viewed for a fee.

  • Border Crossing Lists: From Canada to the USA 1895-1956
  • Border Crossing Lists: From the USA to Canada 1908-1935
  • Great Lakes Passenger Lists (of those who landed in Canada and travelled to the USA via the Great Lakes/St Albans Ports): Not complete.
  • Canadian Passenger Lists: From Ireland and England (and elsewhere) to Canada 1865-1935. The details recorded varies according to the port.
  • Canadian Census returns: From 1861-1911. (See LAC for free online access.)

Libraries & Archives Canada (LAC): An outstanding site, crammed full of goodies for those seeking Irish ancestors and an understanding of the 19th-century Irish immigrant experience. By the summer of 2011, LAC plans to have its entire census collection indexed, digitised and available on its site.

  • Grosse Isle Quarantine Station 1832-1837: More than 33,000 immigrant records. Includes lists of the personal effects of those who died.
  • Immigrants from Ireland & Britain: Pre 1865. Incomplete records of passengers arriving in Quebec and Ontario.
  • Quebec City Passengers: 1865-1900. Index of names only.
  • Canadian Census returns: Both the 1881 and 1891 returns are indexed and can be searched free on the LAC site. Other census records can be searched only in person.

Canadian Naturalisation

Until 1867, when Canada became a nation and cast off its previous title of British North America, settlers from Ireland had no need to apply for Canadian naturalisation because they were British subjects.

Even after that date, and until 1947, immigrants from Britain were automatically entitled to citizenship in Canada. The island of Ireland was a part of Britain until 1922.

LDS Family Search: Everything free to search.

  • Canadian Census 1881: Indexed and fully searchable online.

  • Canadian births, marriages and deaths: Many are included on the North America International Genealogy Index. Verify anything that you find on the IGI. Don't rely on it.

Other resources: There are many free online offerings of passenger lists. Those below are perhaps the most useful for finding Irish immigrants to Canada.



Top Ten Bubbles

See my personal selection of the very best free online databases for Irish genealogy research. Click image.

Find out more about Irish Canadian Immigration



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