Did your ancestors come from Iceland?

Do you want to know who your first Icelandic ancestor was and when he or she left Iceland and arrived in Canada? Are you curious about your Icelandic origins?

If so, our website is a great place to begin your research. Here you will find a page dedicated to genealogical research on the Icelanders. This page provides you with historical information, archival documents and published material from the Library and Archives Canada collection, as well as links to other websites and institutions.

If your ancestor came to Canada between 1865 and 1935, you might find his or her name on the passenger lists.

Did your ancestors come from Sweden?

Do you want to know who your first Swedish ancestor was and when he or she left Sweden and arrived in Canada? Are you curious about your Swedish origins?

If so, our website is a great place to begin your research. Here you will find a page dedicated to genealogical research on the Swedes. This page provides you with historical information, archival documents and published material from the Library and Archives Canada collection, as well as links to other websites and institutions.

If your ancestor came to Canada between 1865 and 1935, you might find his or her name on the passenger lists.

Did your ancestors come from Denmark?

Do you want to know who your first Danish ancestor was and when he or she left Denmark and arrived in Canada? Are you curious about your Danish origins?

If so, our website is a great place to begin your research. Here you will find a page dedicated to genealogical research on the Danes. This page provides you with historical information, archival documents and published material from the Library and Archives Canada collection, as well as links to other websites and institutions.

If your ancestor came to Canada between 1865 and 1935, you might find his or her name on the passenger lists.

Did your ancestors come from Norway?

Do you want to know who your first Norwegian ancestor was and when he or she left Norway and arrived in Canada? Are you curious about your Norwegian origins?

If so, our website is a great place to begin your research. Here you will find a page dedicated to genealogical research on the Norwegians. This page provides you with historical information, archival documents and published material from the Library and Archives Canada collection, as well as links to other websites and institutions.

If your ancestor came to Canada between 1865 and 1935, you might find his or her name on the passenger lists.

Did your ancestors come from Japan?

Do you want to know who your first Japanese ancestor was and when he or she left Japan and arrived in Canada? Are you curious about your Japanese origins?

If so, our website is a great place to begin your research. Here you will find a page dedicated to genealogical research on the Japanese. This page provides you with historical information, archival documents and published material from the Library and Archives Canada collection, as well as links to other websites and institutions. During the Second World War, more than 20,000 Japanese people were placed in internment camps and relocation centres in the interior of British Columbia, in Alberta and in Ontario.

If your ancestor came to Canada between 1865 and 1935, you might find his or her name on the passenger lists.

Do you have ancestors of Black heritage?

Do you want to know when or how your ancestor your first arrived in in Canada? If so, our website is a great place to begin your research. Here you will find a page dedicated to genealogical research on Black heritage. This page provides you with historical information, archival documents and published material from the Library and Archives Canada collection, as well as links to other websites and institutions.

After the American Revolution, the British gave passage to over 3,000 slaves and free Blacks who had remained loyal to the Crown. These Black loyalists joined the many other United Empire Loyalists in settlements across the Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Other Black slaves joined their Loyalist slave owners when they migrated to Canada. Names of those Black Loyalists can be found in the Port Roseway Associates, Muster Book of Free Blacks, Settlement of Birchtown, 1784 and Ward Chipman, Muster Master’s Office (1777–1785) databases.

Did your ancestors come from England?

Do you want to know who your first British ancestor was and when he or she left England and arrived in Canada? Are you curious about your British origins?

If so, our website is a great place to begin your research. Here you will find a page dedicated to genealogical research on the British. This page provides you with historical information, archival documents and published material from the Library and Archives Canada collection, as well as links to other websites and institutions. This page also contains a link to our resources about Home Children; it is estimated that more than four million Canadians are descendants of British Home Children.

If your ancestor came to Canada between 1865 and 1935, you might find his or her name on the passenger lists.

The United Empire Loyalists – Finding their Records

The term “United Empire Loyalists” (often referred to as UEL) refers to the American colonists who remained loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution, and many of which fought for Britain during that conflict. They fled the United States and settled in what are now the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario. All the archives in these provinces hold records relating to Loyalists, some of which are searchable online.

Here are the records held at Library and Archives Canada (LAC):

Loyalists in the Maritimes – Ward Chipman Muster Master’s Office 1777-1785

These references include business records and papers relating to the Loyalists and to boundary commissions.

Land Records

Many Loyalists and their descendants submitted petitions for land for their service in the war or as compensation for lands lost during the American Revolution. Databases on this subject:

Sir Frederick Haldimand Fonds

The collection contains some provision lists and muster rolls relating mostly to Loyalists, disbanded soldiers and their families in the province of Quebec. It includes a nominal index.

Black Loyalist Refugees, 1782-1807 – Port Roseway Associates

Many black Loyalists served and were affected by the evacuation of New York which led to their resettlement in the Port Roseway, now Shelburne, Nova Scotia.

British Headquarters papers

The records known as the Carleton Papers or the American Manuscripts contain lists of refugees in New York, lists of persons who were evacuated from New York, lists of refugees from Massachusetts and Rhode Island who were evacuated through the port of New York and numerous references to Port Roseway in Nova Scotia.

British military and naval series

These records cover the period from the American Revolution to the mid-1800s. The nominal/subject card index (provide a brief description of the document, date, C Series volume number and a page number)

Also discover:

The nicknames and “dit names” of French-Canadian ancestors

In France, nicknames were added to surnames to distinguish between families with similar names living in the same geographical area. When immigrants coming from France settled in New France, this custom continued. Some immigrants, mostly soldiers, already had an alias or a “dit name” when they arrived while others acquired a “dit name” after they settled in New France.

How were “dit names” created?

“Dit names” were created by taking a person’s family name, adding a nickname that described one of the individual’s unique characteristics, and connecting the two with the word “dit,” for example, Miville dit Deschênes.

These nicknames were based on the following:

  • physical characteristics (Le Fort, Le Roux);
  • moral characteristics (Le Bon, Le Sage);
  • trades (Le Boucher);
  • places of origin, including country, province, city, town, village (le Picard, Le Normand);
  • places of residence (Du Val, Du Puis);
  • first names of ancestors (Deblois dit Grégoire, Fasche dit Robert);
  • actions (Ladébauche, Ladéroute).

Until around the 1850s, both surnames and “dit names” were used in records. After that time, only one of the two names was used.

Lists of “dit names” and their associated surnames can be found in the publications and websites that follow:

  • Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu’à nos jours (AMICUS 21710319) by Cyprien Tanguay, volume 7 (also available online on the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec website);
  • Dictionnaire des familles du Québec, (AMICUS 3994211) by René Jetté;
  • Répertoire des noms de famille du Québec, des origines à 1825 by René Jetté and Micheline Lécuyer (AMICUS 8402862).

Other relevant websites

Conduct your own research using AMICUS

Do your own search for “dit names” in AMICUS by title or subject using terms such as “name,” “family name” and “France.”

Validating your ancestor’s arrival in Canada before 1865

So you have searched the immigration records prior to 1865, and still no trace of your ancestor? If you didn’t find your ancestor’s arrival before 1865, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has other genealogical resources that can assist in confirming an ancestor’s arrival in Canada.

Where did he or she settle?
Is he or she listed in census returns? LAC’s collection of census databases, which can be searched by a person’s name, can confirm an individual’s presence as early as 1825. Perhaps a reference exists for one of the parents (recorded as the head of the family) or for a sibling.

Many early settlers submitted petitions to obtain land where they could establish their family in Upper Canada or Lower Canada. LAC’s databases provide references to land transactions that give the person’s name, the date of the application and the county or township within a province.

Perhaps he served in the military?
Muster rolls, pay lists and various registers can reveal useful information when tracing former military personnel. Have a look at the Military page where many finding aids are searchable by name. For example, the RG8, C Series (British Military and Navy Records) includes records about Loyalist regiments, the War of 1812, and the Canadian militia. The documents for the RG8, C Series have been digitized and are searchable by name on our website. Refer to the Help pages for explanations of the records.

Life events in records
The date of arrival in Canada can be estimated by searching birth, marriage, and death records for first occurrences such as the birth of a child to confirm the presence of the family in a location. Consult our previous blog on how to search for Birth, Marriage and Death Records.

Published sources
Family histories, historical atlases and other published works can be searched in AMICUS, LAC’s online catalogue. It is also possible that your ancestor lived in a location that published a city directory.

The genealogical community
Many genealogical societies have resources specific to where your ancestor settled. Finding aids that describe a location are valuable tools when searching for ancestors.

Happy discoveries!