Passenger Lists, 1865-1922

Welsh-Patagonians leaving England for Canada on S.S. "Numidian" of the Allan Line.
Source

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The Records

In 1803, the British Parliament enacted legislation to regulate vessels carrying emigrants to North America. The master of vessel was required to prepare a list of passengers and to deposit it at the port of departure. Please note that there are no comprehensive nominal lists of immigrants arriving in Canada before 1865. Few such lists have survived.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds the Canadian immigration records for the years 1865 to 1935. The passenger lists are the sole surviving official records of the arrival of the majority of people accepted as immigrants in Canada.

The passenger list is a list of immigrants arriving at an official port of entry on a particular ship on a given date. Generally speaking, each manifest gives:

  • the name of the ship
  • its port(s) and date(s) of departure
  • its port(s) and date(s) of arrival in Canada
  • the name, age, sex, profession or occupation, nationality and destination of each passenger aboard

In some of the earlier manifests, personal information is omitted for wives, minor children, groups of labourers and first and second class passengers. Depending on the date, some lists contain other information on the immigrants, such as their health, religion, previous visits to Canada, family relationships and cash on hand.

The format of the lists varies over time. Standard forms were used increasingly from the 1870s onward. However, a number of the lists from the 1860s to the 1890s, especially for arrivals from European ports, are of irregular format or are inscribed on United States immigration forms.

After Confederation onwards, immigration offices were maintained at various places called "ports of entry" and were responsible for the official reception and documentation of immigrants. The present formal process for designating ports of entry was not set up until after the First World War. Before that time, the collection of entry records at a particular port, then forwarding them automatically to Ottawa, was likely an informal administrative measure.

The passenger lists were microfilmed by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration during the 1950s and 1960s. The originals were destroyed after the microfilming. As a result, only a microfilm copy of the passenger lists exists as an archival holding. The microfilming of these records was not of consistent quality and not all images are readable.

The microfilm copies of the passenger lists from 1865 to 1935 were transferred to LAC by Citizenship and Immigration Canada in four groups: the 1865-1900 records in 1971, the 1900-1908 records in 1980, the 1908-1918 records in 1984, and the 1919-1935 records in 1997. The 1908-1918 portion contains a few lists dated as late as 1921 at the end of the 1918 reels.

The digitized images found on the LAC website have been made by scanning the microfilms of the passenger lists. As exact copies, a page that was unreadable on microfilm will also be unreadable on your computer screen.

These records are described in the Immigration Branch fonds, formerly Record Group 76 (RG 76).

The Database

The database provides access to 21,840 references to passenger lists held at LAC for the following ports and dates:

  • City of Québec, Quebec (includes Montréal) (RG 76 C1a), from May 1, 1865 to July 13, 1921;
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia (RG 76 C1b), from January 1881 to October 2, 1922;
  • Saint John, New Brunswick (RG 76 C1c), from January 4, 1900 to September 30, 1922;
  • North Sydney, Nova Scotia (RG 76 C1d), from November 22, 1906 to August 31, 1922;
  • Vancouver, British Columbia (RG 76 C1g), from January 4, 1905 to September 28, 1922; and
  • Victoria, British Columbia (RG 76 C1h), from April 18, 1905 to September 30, 1922.

To maintain a file of immigrants arriving at seaports in the United States and proceeding directly overland to Canada, the Canadian immigration service began in 1905 to collect extracts of passenger lists kept at the east coast ports of New York, Baltimore, Boston, Portland, Philadelphia and Providence.

Important note: Some of the original documents are very difficult to read, therefore some information in the database may be incorrect and/or incomplete.

Search Screen

The search screen enables you to search by:

  • Name of Ship
  • Year of Arrival
  • Port of Arrival
  • Shipping Line
  • Port of Departure

By clicking on Hide/Show Advanced Search Options, you will also be able to search by:

  • Date of Departure
  • Date of Arrival

When you have entered your search terms, click on "Search". The number of hits found will be shown at the top of the results screen.

How to interpret the search results

Your search results will be posted as a results summary list from which you will be able to obtain an item description.

Search Results Page

The search results page displays the following fields:

  • Item Number
  • Ship
  • Port of Arrival
  • Date of Arrival

Click on the underlined Item Number of a record to access the Item page, which contains additional information specific to that record.

Item Page

The item page has digitized images of the actual passenger lists available in JPG format and contains the following fields:

  • Ship
  • Shipping Line
  • Port of Departure
  • Date of Departure
  • Port of Arrival
  • Date of Arrival
  • Year of Arrival
  • Microfilm Reel Number
  • Remarks
  • Reference
  • Item Number

To suggest a correction, click on the Suggest a Correction link to access an electronic form.

To return to the Search Results page, click on the Back button of your browser in the upper left corner of your screen.

How to Obtain Copies

You can print the images or save the images on your own computer.

To print a copy of a scanned image, right click on the image, select copy, then paste to your word processing software, using the Edit: Paste Special Feature: Device Independent Bitmap.