Genealogy and Family History
The first Italian to land in Canada was the explorer Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) in 1497. However, the first settlement of Italians in Canada did not occur until 1665 when soldiers from areas of what is now present-day Italy were recruited by the French army to be part of their Carignan-Salières Regiment. Italians also served with the British military in Lower Canada in the de Meuron and de Watteville Regiments during the War of 1812. When the regiments were disbanded in 1816, some of soldiers stayed in Canada, settling in Ontario and the Eastern Townships in Quebec.
Immigration from Italy did not increase substantially until after the Italian Risorgimento, the unification of modern Italy, in 1870. Canada attracted migrant labourers and skilled tradesmen in the railway, mining and construction industries, but by the early 1900s, more and more of the temporary migrants chose to stay permanently rather than return to Italy. They were joined by farmers, artisans and merchants. Italian business districts developed in most urban centres, especially in Montreal and Toronto.
The second large wave of Italian immigration occurred in the years following the Second World War until the mid-1970s. The majority of these immigrants entered Canada through Halifax at Pier 21.
There are approximately 1.4 million Canadians of Italian descent today. Many of these people are descendents from the recent Italian immigration in the post-Second World War era which saw Southern Italy, with the exception of Sardina, as a major source of immigration. Networks that linked villages across Italy to communities in various Canadian cities eased this transition to Canada. More than ninety percent of Italians that entered Canada between 1946 and 1967 were sponsored by relatives in Canada. The majority of these immigrants settled in large and medium-size cities across Canada.
It is important to note when researching Italian Canadian genealogy that many Italians in the1800s and early 1900s arrived in Canada via New York City.
Research at Library and Archives Canada
Pledge of Loyalty of the Order of Italo-Canadians and Italians of Montreal (RG 2-D vol. 5710)
The fonds consists of a pledge of loyalty of the Order of Italo-Canadians and Italians of Montreal in supporting the initiative of the Italian Societies Il Giornale Italo-Canadese, in their donation of an ambulance to the Red Cross. The item is a 309 page bound volume containing signatures and amounts pledged, 1940.
Italian Society, Principe di Piemonte (MG 28-V134)
The fonds contains an attendance register and membership lists of the Society of Italians from the Piedmont region of Italy who settled in Thunder Bay. Records date from approximately 1943 to 1973.
Royal Commission to Inquire into the Immigration of Italian Labourers to Montreal and the Alleged Fraudulent Practices of Employment Agencies fonds (RG 33-99, Vol. 1, File 7)
This fonds contains a list of names and addresses of many Italians living in Canada, mostly in the Montreal region, between 1903 and 1905. Microfilm T-3473.
Immigration Branch, Central Registry Files (RG 76)
- Recruiting of friendly Italians in United States for the purpose of political propaganda in British Isles, 1941 (Mazzini Society) (lists and photos), RG 76 IA1, volume 467, file 701220. Microfilm C-10405.
- Canadian Travel Agency, Admission of Italian Farmers, Montreal, 1949-1951, RG 76 IA1, volume 669, file C39309. Microfilms C-10602 and C-10603.
- Admission of Italian farm labourers, 1950-1951 (400 names), RG 76 IA1, volume 674, file C92655. Microfilm C-10677.
Other Series of Records
Library and Archives Canada also holds other private records regarding Italian Canadians containing both textual documents and images. Consult the Archives Search database using keywords such as a surname or an organization name.
Research in Published Sources
- A Genealogist's guide to discovering your Italian Ancestors: How to Find and Record your Unique Heritage, by Lynn Nelson.
- Birds of Passage: an Annotated Listing of Italian Immigrants who departed Palermo Sicily and arrived at the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana, 1859-1901, by Rosemary DePasquale Boykin.
- Finding Italian Roots: the Complete Guide for Americans, by John Philip Colletta.
- Finding Records of your Ancestors. Part A, Italy, 1809 to 1910, published by the Family History Library.
- Finding Your Italian Ancestors, by Grant Karcich. (AMICUS 25278166)
- Finding your Italian ancestors: a beginner's guide, by Suzanne Russo Adams.
- From Chiaromonte to Shepard Hill: the Story of the Italian Immigrants who settled in Walton, by Eleanor Belmont.
- Italian Genealogical Records: how to use Italian Civil, Ecclesiastical & other Records in Family History Research, by Trafford R. Cole.
- Italian-American Genealogy: a Source Book, by Priscilla Grindle DeAngelis.
- Italian-Canadian Studies: a Select Bibliography, compiled by Franc Sturino. (AMICUS 7767295)
- Italians in Ontario, edited by Franc Sturino and John Zucchi.
- Italians of the American Northwest, compiled by Charley Vingo.
- Italians to America: lists of passengers arriving at U.S. ports, 1880-1899, edited by Ira A. Glazier and P. William Filby. (AMICUS 11896986)
- Little Italies in North America, edited by Robert F. Harney and J. Vincenza Scarpaci. (AMICUS 3449011)
- Our Italian Surnames, by Joseph Guerin Fucilla.
- The Italians in Canada, by Bruno Ramirez. (AMICUS 9298637)
- They Worked Together and Prayed Together: Italians in Haliburton County, by Leopolda L. Dobrzensky. (AMICUS 7889745)
Search for other books on Italy and Italians in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject keywords such as:
- Sicily genealogy
- Italian genealogy
- Italian Canadians
Research at Other Institutions and Online