Immigrant Ancestors: Border Entry Records at the LAC

We all know that ship\’s lists to Canada are one of the best resources for finding our immigrant ancestors. but what if your ancestor isn\’t listed? What if your ancestor came from the United States? Not only American citizens moved up into Canada. There were others that took ship across the ocean to an American port, and then traveled north to Canada.

An often overlooked resource are border crossing records. From 1908 on, those travelling between the Canada and US were required to go through a designated entry point. Before then, people moved freely across the border between us and our neighbours to the south. 
If you have access to Ancestry, you can access their collection Border Crossings: From U.S. to Canada, 1908-1935. This collection is fully indexed. However, Ancestry\’s indexing is notorious for not always being great. So make sure you use as many name variations as you can think of when using it. You can also use the browse function to the right of the search fields.
If you don\’t have Ancestry access, you can still turn to Library and Archives Canada for their digitized collection on Border Entries. This method is little more cumbersome to use, but it\’s worth the effort. There are some highlighted text that you\’ll want to click on to help your search. Unfortunately, the links are a little jumbled and don\’t quite take you where you need to be. However, I\’ve figured out where you should be clicking, and I\’ve included instructions below to get the most out of this collection without pulling your hair out.

First you\’ll want to pick which time frame your ancestor came over: 1908 to 1918, 1919 to 1924, or 1925 to 1935.
1908 to 1919 
During these years, people crossing into Canada were put onto lists. These lists have been put on microfilm and digitized. Your first step is to look at the page Digitized Microforms(Archived) highlighted in the text. 
Now, when you click on this, make sure you press Ctrl as you left click on the mouse so that the screen opens in a new window. Then follow these steps:
  • Scroll down the page to their chart of microfilms from 1908 to 1918. 
  • Pick a possible location for your ancestor to have crossed. Some locations have more than one microfilm so look to the right for the year range for each. 
  • Take note of the microfilm number to the left of the location
  • Now go back to the main page, and this time press Ctrl and left click on the other highlighted text: Border Entry Lists for 1908 to 1918 (Archived).
  • Find your microfilm number and click on it. This will take you to the digitized images that you can browse through page by page.
  • When you find an image you want to keep, right click on the image and click on \”Save Image as…\” to save the image to your computer.
The information in these lists can include the following information:
  • Arrival date
  • Name
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Country of Birth
  • Country of Citizenship
  • Means of transportation. 
  • State travelling from
  • Final destination
  • Value of cash and belongings
  • Additional remarks

1919 to 1924
During these years, those entering Canada filled out what is called a Form 30. The forms have been digitized in more or less alphabetical order. Follow these steps:
  • Ctrl + left click on he highlighted text Form 30 records(Archived) to open the page in a new window.
  • Scroll down the page to the listing of microfilms. You can either browse through the lists, or you can type your surname in the Filter Box located at the start of the lists.
  • Click on your desired microfilm and it will take you right to the images. These can be downloaded as PDFs, or you can look at the image right on the page.
  • Once you have found your entry, right click and click on \”Save Image as…\” to save to your computer.
The Form 30s can contain a huge amount of information:
  • Port and date of entry
  • Name
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Birthplace
  • Citizenship
  • Previous Adress
  • Final destination
  • Religion
  • Additional family members
  • Physical description
  • Money on Hand
  • Mental and physical condition
Take note that these forms were 2 sided, so make sure you are looking at the next page as well to get as much information as you can.
You can also take note of the microfilm number, 
1925 to 1935
During these years, Form 30s were no longer filled out, and border crossings went back to the list format. Here\’s where it\’ll be cumbersome.Now for this one, you\’re going to:

  • Go to the Digitized Microforms (Archived) link in the 1908 to 1919 section NOT in the 1925 to 1935 section. Ctrl + left click to open it in a new window. 
  • Scroll almost to the bottom to the chart of microfilms for 1925-1935.
  • Locate the microfilm you need and make note of the number.
  • Go back to the main page and go to the 1925 to 1935 section and Ctrl + left click on this section\’s Digitized Microforms (Archived) link.
  • Click on your microfilm number and look through the images to find your ancestors\’ entry.
  • Right click and click on \”Save image as….\” to save to your computer
Unlike in the first section, these books are arranged by month and year, rather than by entry port. From what I could see, each book is arranged more or less alphabetically by port of entry. Here\’s some of the information you\’ll find, depending on the year:
  • Date of entry
  • Name
  • Age
  • Man/Woman/Child
  • Country of Birth
  • Country of Citizenship
  • Occupation, both in old residence and their intended occupation in Canada
  • Mode of transportation to Canada
  • Train No.
  • Travelling from what State
  • Travelling to what Province
  • Value of Cash and Effects
  • Race
  • If they\’ve been in Canada before. If yes, when and where
  • What language they can read in
  • Nearest relative\’s name and address in previous country
  • How they are travelling to their final destination (i.e. car or train)
  • Whether they were admitted or rejected
  • Medical certificate and/or passport details
Finally, keep a few things in mind when looking through the entries for all three sections:
  • If your ancestor was born in or previously lived in Canada, they may or may not be listed.
  • People still passed through these entry points even if the border office was closed, so there may be no record.
  • This collection only lists people coming into Canada, not those leaving.
  • At the start of 1925, there was a transition period switching from the lists to the Form 30. If your ancestor falls into that time period, check both sections.

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