Many immigrants to Canada came from the United States or sailed from Europe to American ports on their way to Canada. Before April 1908, people were able to move freely across the border from the United States into Canada; no record of immigration exists for those individuals.
In 1908, the government of Canada started recording border arrivals on border entry lists which were the official record of immigration; there are no immigrant applications or files. The lists are arranged by border port and date of entry. The Border Entry Lists for 1908 to 1918 (Archived) have been digitized and the images can be viewed in Digitized Microforms (Archived).
From January 1919 to the end of 1924, individual forms were used to record immigrants entering Canada from or via the United States. Forms 30 records (Archived) were microfilmed in quasi-alphabetical groupings based on the first letter of the surname. Their digitized images can be consulted in that order in Digitized Microforms (Archived).
The lists are arranged by border port and date of entry. If you do not know those details, consult the Immigration Indexes and Research Aids page for nominal indexes. Once you have the complete reference, the Border Entry Lists can be consulted in Digitized Microforms (Archived). The border entry lists that include surnames starting with the letter C have been indexed in the Passenger Lists, 1925-1935 - Nominal Indexes.
- Not all immigrants crossing the border were registered. Some crossed when the ports were closed or where no port existed. Many families were not registered because one or both parents had been born in Canada or previously resided here, and they were considered Returning Canadians rather than immigrants.
- For January to March 1925, there are sometimes Form 30 records and border entry lists.
- The Government of Canada did not keep records of people leaving the country.
- The United States National Archives and Records Administration holds records of arrivals from Canada, 1895-1954. Those records include Canadians travelling to the U.S. to visit or work.
- Canadian and American border entry records are searchable on www.Ancestry.com (subscription required).