52 Ancestors: Week 42 – Finding Early Immigration Records at the LAC

Week 42\’s prompt is \”adventure\”. I can think of no bigger adventure for someone than starting a new life in another country. So for this post I decided to look at one of the immigration databases on Library and Archives Canada\’s website, Immigrants Before 1865. There was no regulated system of recording immigration to Canada before 1865, and today there is only a hodge podge of surviving records. The LAC has put what they have together into one database on their website.


By clicking on List of Records it will expand out showing a chart. The records making up the database are:

  1. List of the persons transported from Rotterdam to Nova Scotia on the ANN 1750
  2. Lists of emigrants transported from Rotterdam to Nova Scotia on the SPEEDWELL, GALE, MURDOCK and PEARL 1751
  3. List of Swiss embarked in Rotterdam for Nova Scotia aboard the GALE 1751
  4. Lists of persons leaving various ports in the United Kingdom bound for various ports in North America 1774-1775
  5. List of Loyalists bound for Halifax on board the CLINTON 1784
  6. German settlers from New York in Markham Township, Upper Canada 1793-1808
  7. Declarations of aliens in Lower Canada (mostly from the United States) 1794-1811
  8. Emigrants leaving Fort William, Scotland, for Pictou, Nova Scotia, on board the ships SARAH and DOVE 1801
  9. List of passengers forwarded from Lachine to Selkirk’s Baldoon Settlement in Kent County, Ontario 1804
  10. List of the crew and passengers on board the ship CLARENDON of Hull, England, bound for Charlottetown 1808
  11. Documents concerning mostly the Red River Settlement and the conflict with the Hudson’s Bay Company, with some records relating to the Baldoon and Grand River Settlements and Prince Edward Island 1811-1823
  12. List of settlers in the Island of Cape Breton 1813
  13. List of settlers enrolled for Canada, sailing aboard the ATLAS, DOROTHY, BALTIC MERCHANT and ELIZA 1815
  14. Settlers arrived at Quebec from England aboard the ATLAS, DOROTHY and BALTIC MERCHANT 1815
  15. List of inhabitants of the Island of Guernsey who wish to emigrate to British North America 1816
  16. Lists of persons who emigrated from the British Isles to Canada 1817-1831, 1849
  17. Immigrants from Great Britain and Ireland proceeding to Canada via New York, whose passes were signed by the British Consul 1817-1819
  18. Petition of John Banfield requesting land in Simcoe County, Ontario, for intended immigrants from the Scilly Islands 1819
  19. Lists of persons leaving Scotland bound for Upper Canada on board the GEORGE CANNING, DAVID, EARL OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE and COMMERCE 1821
  20. State of Swiss settlers in the Red River 1822
  21. ecords relating to Peter Robinson settlers in Eastern Ontario. Lists of Irish passengers on board the ALBION, AMITY, BRUNSWICK, ELIZABETH, FORTITUDE, JOHN BARRY, REGULUS, RESOLUTION, STAR and STAKESBY 1823-1844
  22. Archibald McNab Papers: Correspondence and lists of settlers in McNab Township, Renfrew County, Ontario 1825-1842
  23. Lists of passengers aboard ships BRITANNIA, WARRIOR, LIVELY, HARMONY and DANIEL O’CONNELL bound for Quebec after clearing customs 1832, 1840, 1842
  24. Lists of immigrants from Londonderry County, Ireland, that were contained in the original Ordnance Survey records. From various parishes to ports in Canada and the United States. 1833-1836
  25. Lists of emigrants on board the KINGSTON from Liverpool to settle in Hull Township, Lower Canada 1834
  26. Returns of destitute at Prescott, Ontario 1835
  27. Lists of emigrants from Kettlestone and Heacham parishes, Norfolk County, England 1836
  28. List of immigrants with capital who arrived at Kingston, Ontario 1840
  29. Lists of settlers in the records of James Allison, emigrant agent at Montreal 1842, 1847
  30. Naturalization certificates 1846-1849
  31. Lists of emigrant orphans in Montreal and Quebec City 1847
  32. Agricultural questionnaires answered in 1853 by some immigrants in Canada West (Ontario) who had arrived between 1791 and 1848. Only 41 questionnaires survived. 1853
  33. Most of the documents are accounts submitted by teamsters and boat captains who provided inland transportation by wagon or boat to indigent immigrants. The person providing the transportation would submit the account to the government emigrant agent for reimbursement. There are also a few vouchers and receipts for other services provided, such as the delivery of provisions or the burial of deceased indigent immigrants. 1843-1854

The first thing you are going to do is to search the database to find if your ancestor is listed. Because you\’ll need to go back and forth from the main information screen, you\’ll want to open the search screen in a new window. Just right click on Search:Database, and select \”open link in a new tab\”.

In the search screen, you have the option of searching by any or all of

  • Surname
  • Given Name(s)
  • Year of Immigration
  • Keyword
I decided to look for one of my more common surnames, Douglas. I received several results, as I suspected I would. The very first entry is for a \”Widow Douglass\” 
I decided to look at her. I clicked on the Item Number on the left of her name and this came up
Since no PDF image is attached, I will have to check the main page\’s chart. Using the information from here, I then went back to the main page and looked on the chart for the record set that is part of the Department of Finance fonds. It turns out it is the last record set. Luckily this set is digitized.
According to the information for the Widow Douglass, she went from Toronto to Bondhead. Her passage was paid by the Emigration Service Fund. Her record is on page 315. I clicked on pages 291 to 343 on the main page above. A PDF opened in a new window. Document 315 is an account of payment to teamster Arthur Clifton for delivering indigent immigrants between July 3 and 10, 1845
According to the document, she traveled with several other people on July 7 1845 to Bondhead. She has five family members traveling with her.
Some results have images right in the search results file. Here is one for a J. Douglas:
This is a letter of thanks written to James Allison. The owner of the vessel Boiver of Stratham was charging a Poll Tax to the passengers. James Allison seems to have paid the tax for them. As you can see, there are two PDF files attached. The first I could open no problem, but there\’s no J. Douglas written there. The second link, however, came up not available. So I went back to the main page and found the Neilson Collection, Records of James Allison fonds. I clicked on the microfilm number and it took me to the Heritage site. I scanned through the images to find 146A/147. That page was the same as shown above. So I went to the next page and found where J. Douglas fit into the letter. There\’s actually 2 men signing the letter named J. Douglas, a Junior and a Senior:
Though it looks like digital images can be accessed for most of the records, there are a few that no images are available online. You have to the option of visiting onsite, or you can order a copy of the record. Scroll to the bottom of the database\’s main information page for the link to order copies. The LAC also gives these research tips on their site:

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