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!

The “Filles du roi” (1663-1673)

Summer 2013 marks the 350th anniversary of the arrival in New France of the first contingent of the “Filles du roi” (“King’s daughters”), young women who became the ancestors of numerous French-Canadian families. A variety of celebrations are planned throughout Quebec, culminating in the New France Festival (Fêtes de la Nouvelle-France) in Quebec City from August 7 to 11, 2013.

Between 1663 and 1673, King Louis XIV supported the emigration of these young women, many of them orphans. Their passage to the colony was paid and they received an average dowry of 50 livres, along with a small hope chest containing clothing and sewing materials. In exchange, the women agreed to marry on their arrival in New France, to start a family and to help their husbands work the land. These women were instrumental in helping to populate and develop the colony.

The first contingent of 36 “Filles du roi” landed in 1663. Over the next ten years, an estimated 800 young women settled in New France under the same program.

If you would like to know whether one of your ancestors was a “Fille du roi,” there are many genealogical publications and reviews you can consult. However, the most valuable reference work is Yves Landry’s Les Filles du roi au XVIIe siècle, orphelines en France, pionnières au Canada (AMICUS 11402134), which was published in 1992 and which includes biographical notes. You can also visit the website of the Société d’histoire des Filles du roy.

Library and Archives Canada has several historical documents in its collection pertaining to this wave of immigration, including correspondence between the Governor General of New France, Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac; Intendant Jean Talon; and the Secretary of State for the Navy, Jean-Baptiste Colbert. Of particular note are a letter dated October 27, 1667 (MIKAN 3037238), and a memorandum written on November 10, 1670 (MIKAN 3037252).

Painting depicting the arrival in Quebec City of intended brides for French-Canadian farmers in 1667.

Arrival of the Brides. Source

Home Children (Part VI)—Mary Scott Pearson, ancestor of former Ontario Member of Provincial Parliament Jim Brownell

Today’s article features Mary Scott Pearson who was born in Scotland. Mary’s name appears in the Scottish Census of 1881. The entry indicates that she lived in Glasgow with her sister Maggie and their widowed mother, also named Mary. The two sisters became orphans when their mother died in 1888. The next census (1891) indicates that the sisters lived at the Girls Industrial School in Maryhill, in the County of Lanarkshire.

The Pearson sisters were separated in September 1891 when Mary boarded the SS Hibernian en route to Canada as part of a group of 20 young women recruited to work as domestic servants. The young Scottish women’s transportation and accommodations were arranged by Ms. E. Cameron, an Industrial School official.

As in previous articles, you must first consult our main home children online resource. Enter the surname Pearson and the given name Mary into this database and it will generate only one result for Mary Pearson, age 14, whose destination was Saint John, New Brunswick. The Fairknowe foster home, administered by a charitable organization known as Quarriers, was Mary Pearson’s first place of residence in Canada.

Ten years after her arrival, according to the Census of 1901, Mary was living in Prescott, Ontario, with the family of Patrick MacMillen. She married Curtis Brownell five years later, on March 21, 1906, in Cornwall, County of Stormont. The couple’s first son, Earl Kenneth, was born in September of the following year.

Mary Scott Pearson and Curtis Brownell raised their family in Cornwall, where they lived until the time of their deaths; Curtis died in 1931 and Mary died in 1945.

Jim Brownell, son of Earl Kenneth Brownell, honours his grandmother’s arrival in Canada

Her grandson, Jim, elected Member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in 2003, travelled to Scotland in 2009 when he visited the city of Glasgow, officially representing the Government of Ontario. The articles that appeared in the Cornwall daily newspaper, the Standard Freeholder, on September 23, 2009 and May 25, 2011, describe the journey of Mary S. Pearson and her sister Maggie, and Mr. Brownell’s work to foster a better understanding of the often little-known home children movement.

In 2011, as Member of Provincial Parliament for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, Jim Brownell tabled Bill 185 in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to have September 28 proclaimed “British Home Child Day.” The purpose of the bill, which received royal assent on June 1 of that year, was to honour his grandmother and his great-aunt Maggie, as well as the more than 100,000 British home children.

Don’t forget to read the previous articles in this series on home children and listen to our podcast!

Happy hunting and enjoy your discoveries!

Immigration and Citizenship records at LAC: Did your ancestor arrive in Canada before 1865?

This article, the first of a series depicting Immigration and Citizenship sources, offers insight into pre-Confederation arrivals in Canada. Very few records compiled before 1865 still exist. Most surviving records, which are from various sources, have been indexed by name in databases.

Here are the key resources*:

The Immigrants to Canada database was compiled from documents such as immigration and land records and some private fonds, namely the Peter Robinson Papers. It provides access to more than 28,000 references to records held at Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

The Montreal Emigrant Society Passage Book (1832) database provides access to 1,945 references and digitized documents to people who received assistance from the Montreal Emigrant Society in 1832.

The Immigrants at Grosse-Île (1832-1937) database is the result of an agreement between Parks Canada and LAC. It contains more than 33,000 records spanning a 100-year time period. The references describe various events for immigrants arriving at the city of Québec and their time spent at the Grosse-Île Quarantine Station.

The Upper Canada and Canada West Naturalization Records (1828-1850) database gives references to the names of 2,967 persons naturalized in what is now the province of Ontario between 1828 and 1850. The 188 registers have been scanned and digitized images are accessible in this database.

The Citizenship Registration Records for the Montreal Circuit Court (1851-1945) database provides access to more than 8,000 references to the Citizenship Registration Records for the Montreal Circuit Court. The records have been digitized and linked to the database references.

If you think some of your “ancêtres” can be traced back to France, LAC holds a small number of lists from the French Regime (1717-1786).

Coming soon!

Stay tuned for the following related upcoming articles:

  • Validating your ancestor’s presence in Canada before 1865
  • Immigration sources from 1865 onwards (most of them in databases)
  • Border entries to Canada via the United States

*Note: Don’t forget that the Search Help page of a database is the best place to find out how the records are arranged.

Home Children (Part V)—The Honourable James Murdock

Today’s article is about the Honourable James Murdock, a labour minister in Mackenzie King’s cabinet who was appointed senator in 1930. He arrived in Canada through the home children movement.

Since James Murdock was a Member of Parliament, the logical place to start your research is his biography on the Parliament of Canada website. There we find out that he was born in Brighton, England, on August 15, 1871. Additionally, an article in The Ottawa Citizen announcing the death of his wife Annette Follis in 1965 also states that James and Annette married in 1903.

As explained in previous articles, you must first consult our main home children online resource. Enter the surname Murdock and the first name James into this database and it will generate three results, including two for James Murdock, age six, who arrived in 1876 under the auspices of Annie Macpherson’s organization. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know which of the two references relates to the James Murdock we are looking for.

Other Library and Archives Canada sources also provide information about James Murdock and his family. The 1911 Census indicates that James Murdock and his wife Nettie (short for Annette) lived in Toronto South―the same district where Murdock would run for election in 1921―with their two children Basil and Elena, as well as a servant named Ada Hennings.

You can also find further references to James Murdock in other published sources, such as city directories and newspapers.

It is possible to learn more about the British origins of James Murdock or another home child by contacting the organization responsible for the child in question. In this case, it was an agency managed by Annie Macpherson, which was taken over by Dr. Barnardo’s organization in 1924 (Barnardo’s Family History Service).

Finally, don’t forget to read the previous articles in this series: Introduction, Part II on Edward Brignall, Part III on Harold Mornington and Part IV on Wallace Ford.

Happy hunting!

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

Home Children (Part IV)—Wallace Ford

Today’s article is on American actor Wallace (Wally) Ford. Despite his difficult childhood, Ford had a successful show business career and appeared in over 200 films. He was born in Bolton, England, on February 12, 1898, and named Samuel Jones Grundy. He lived in a Barnardo Home before being sent to Canada, after which he stayed in several foster homes, including a farm in Manitoba.

As explained in previous articles, the first step is to search our main home children online resource. However, if you search this database for the surname Grundy and the first name Samuel, no results come up. A second attempt using just the surname Grundy is equally ineffective, so another strategy is in order.

Since biographical sources also contain the surname Jones, we will presume that Grundy was dropped and Jones was used as his family name. A search with the latter gives you an item display for Samuel Jones, seven years of age, part of a group of 163 children who arrived in Canada on July 1, 1905, on the SS Southwark. The Passenger Lists, 1865–1922 have been digitized and you can access an image online of the passenger list for the SS Southwark.

How did Samuel Jones become Wallace Ford? As a young teen, Samuel Jones ran away from the Manitoba farmer for whom he worked. In the United States, after the tragic death of his friend Wallace Ford, Samuel Jones adopted his deceased friend’s name to honour his memory. From then on, Canadian Samuel Jones was known as Wallace Ford on American soil.

In 1936, Wally Ford, who was now a well-known actor, found his mother, Catherine Jones. Thanks to co-operation between the Los Angeles Police Department and New Scotland Yard, and after over 20 years of searching, mother and son were reunited.

Finally, remember to consult the previous articles in this series: Introduction, Part II on Edward Brignall and Part III on Harold Mornington.

Happy hunting!

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

The Home Children (part three) — Harold Mornington

The second article in this series of three explains how to find information about one of the British home children, Edward Brignall, who served in the Canadian Armed Forces during the First World War. This third article looks at another home child, Harold Mornington, who served in the British Army in the Second World War.

As with Edward Brignall, the process begins with a search of our main online resource on Home Children. Entering the family name Mornington and the given name Harold into the database yields a single reference; it indicates that Harold was 14 years old when he left Liverpool on March 11, 1932 aboard the SS Montclare, and arrived in Halifax on March 19, 1932. He was part of the last group of 36 children sent to Canada by the Barnardo agency.

The passenger lists from 1925 to 1935 have been digitized and can be consulted online. The digital image of the list of passengers aboard the SS Montclare can be examined as well, which confirms the information found in the home children database. It also contains other information, such as the name and address of Harold’s mother, Mrs. Mornington, who lived at 16 Orlando Street, in Caldmore, Walsall, England. More information about Harold Mornington’s family history can be found by contacting the Barnardo’s Family History Service.

Beginning in the 1920s, immigration inspectors drafted Juvenile Inspection Reports when conducting periodic evaluations of children brought to Canada by different agencies. These files are available only on microfilm. A search on reel T-15424 shows that between 1932 and 1936, Harold Mornington worked for five different employers in the Ontario districts of Durham, Brant, Oxford and Hastings.

A reference found on the site of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission reveals that sometime between 1936 and the beginning of the Second World War, Harold Mornington returned to England. He joined the British Army and died on May 23, 1941, while still a member of the Royal Artillery. He was the son of William Joseph and Elizabeth Mornington.

Lastly, Harold Mornington’s military service record is kept at The National Archives in the United Kingdom.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

Home Children (Part II)—Edward Brignall

Today’s article is on Edward Brignall, born in England on January 11, 1898; you will learn how to obtain information on him.

The first step is to search by entering the surname Brignall in our main online resource on home children. You will notice that no results are displayed; this could be explained by the fact that in those days many surnames were transcribed phonetically.

The next step is to use the wildcard character *. We suggest that you enter Brign* in the surname field.

This search opens an item display for Edward Brignell, 10 years of age, who arrived in Canada on the SS Dominion on May 31, 1908, in the care of the Barnardo
charitable organization. Edward was part of a group of 109 girls and 219 boys. This information agrees with what we know.

The passenger lists from 1865 to 1922 have been digitized and you may consult them using our database Passenger Lists, 1865–1922. You may even examine a digitized image of the SS Dominion passenger list. Further information on Edward’s family background may be obtained by contacting the organization Barnardo’s Family History Service.

Several young English immigrants who settled in Canada served in the Canadian and British forces during both world wars; such is the case of Edward Brignall. To trace him, first search in our database Soldiers of the First World War. Just enter Brignall in
the surname field. This search generates five results, only one with the given name Edward:

Name: BRIGNALL, EDWARD
Regimental number(s): 922715
Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1068 – 36
Date of Birth: 11/01/1898

You may consult his attestation paper online to confirm his date of birth, find out
where he lived (i.e., 75 Bennerman Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba), and learn that his next of kin, his sister, Alice Brignall, resided in Leeds, England. By consulting his record, we learn that Edward died before leaving for Europe. Also available online are the death cards of First World War veterans; Edward’s shows that he died of pneumonia on January 23, 1917, at the Winnipeg General Hospital just a few months after he enlisted.

It is also possible to search the database of the Canadian Virtual War Memorial. There
we learn that Edward was the son of Edward and Dorothy Lever Brignall, of Leeds, England, and that he was buried at the Brookside Cemetery in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Finally, remember to consult the first part of this series, entitled Home Children—Introduction.

Happy hunting!

Questions or comments?
We would love to hear from you!

Home Children—Introduction

The immigration of children from Great Britain accounts for a significant part of Canadian history. Between 1869 and the end of the 1930s, religious authorities and philanthropic organizations sent more than 100,000 poor, orphaned or abandoned children—better known as home children—to Canada, believing that they were offering them a better  chance for a healthy life. Many Canadians have an ancestor who experienced this often-misunderstood migration.

Anyone who came to Canada alone as a child was very likely one of the home children. Family members quite possibly obtained information on this from written documents or oral histories.

Library and Archives Canada has several genealogical records on home children, including passenger lists, correspondence, inspection report cards and various documents produced by different organizations that took part in the children’s transport and care.

Stay tuned for our upcoming series of articles on home children who later made their mark in Canada’s history, and on well-known people whose ancestors were home children. The series will help you discover our vast collection of genealogical resources that enable you to trace an ancestor who might have been one of the home children.

Questions or comments? We would love to hear from you!

New Podcast Episode: The Shamrock and the Fleur-de-Lys

We are pleased to announce the release of our latest podcast episode: The Shamrock and the Fleur-de-Lys.

In this episode, we consult a panel of experts about the massive immigration of Irish settlers to Quebec in the 1800s. We examine the journey they made in order to establish their new lives on foreign soil, as well as the cultural bond that formed between the Irish and the Québécois.

Subscribe to episodes using RSS or iTunes, or just tune in at: Podcasts – Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information on recent announcements at LAC, visit “News.