- Genealogy and Family History
Research at Library and Archives Canada
The first Chinese in Canada were artisans and traders who arrived in 1788 in the Nootka Sound area of British Columbia. Chinese gold prospectors from San Francisco founded Barkerville, British Columbia, in 1858. Thousands of young men from China arrived in the 1880s to work on the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The Government of Canada imposed many restrictions and regulations on immigrants from China, including a head tax.
In 1885, after the completion of the CP Railroad, the Government of Canada passed the Chinese Immigration Act. This act was intended to limit the entrance of Chinese immigrants to Canada by charging each immigrant with a head tax of $50. This tax was mandatory for all Chinese citizens entering Canada except for a small number of groups that were exempted from this tax, which included: diplomats, tourists, merchants, "men of science", and students. The head tax steadily rose to $100 in 1900 and finally to $500 in 1903.
This tax was abolished in 1923, and replaced with the Chinese Exclusion Act, which essentially closed the doors to the Chinese by restricting their admission to Canada. The Chinese citizens who had already entered Canada before this date were ordered to register with the government under this legislation. The government of Canada repealed the Chinese Immigration Act in 1947 and allowed Chinese immigrants to enter Canada without the payment of a head tax.
Head Tax Certificates
Certificates were issued to each immigrant upon entry to Canada. These could also replace lost entry documents. The certificates were retained by the immigrant, not by the Government of Canada.
The main certificates were:
- C.I. 4 certificate issued to Chinese immigrants at all customs ports describing person (name, photo, physical description etc.) declaring his/her intention to remain in Canada and destination and used to issue the C.I. 5 certificate;
- C.I.5 certificate issued to all Chinese immigrants who arrived after 1885 and paid the head tax;
- C.I.6 certificate issued to Chinese persons who had entered Canada prior to 1885 and hence had paid no head taxes;
- C.I.9 certificate issued to Chinese wanting to leave Canada for a limited time without losing Canadian status;
- C.I. 9A certificate, similar to C.I. 9 certificate but for Chinese crewmen of oceanic ships docking at Canadian ports;
- C.I.28 certificate issued either to replace destroyed or lost identifying certificates or to identify native-born persons without such certificates;
- C.I.30 certificate issued instead of a C.I. 5 certificate to persons entering Canada who are exempt from head tax payment (e.g. diplomats, tourists, merchants, "men of science", and students);
- C.I.36 certificate issued to replace C.I.5 certificate issued before 1912 that had no pictures; and
C.I.46 certificate issued to seamen registering out under C.I. 9A certificates.
Library and Archives Canada holds only a small sample collection of the certificates. However, the certificate number and amount paid were recorded in the General Registers of Chinese Immigration, 1885-1949, described in the section below this one.
Table 1: List of Head Tax Certificates Held at Library and Archives Canada
A few of these certificates are digitized. See Mikan 161424. For the ones not digitized, see Access the Records.
|Chan Ling Gong
||RG 76, Vol.712, C.I.5 certificate # 78146 issued December 22, 1912. Arrived December 21, 1913 on the Empress of Asia, 20 years old, from Wai Gong, Hoy Ping (photograph attached)|
|Chin Kwock Gong
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.5 certificate # 91958 issued January 7, 1922. Arrived December 26, 1921 on the Empress of Russia, Vancouver, 15 years old from Thum Gap, SinNing, (photograph attached)|
|Ching Ming Kee (Ching Ming Gee)
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.36 certificate # 21217 issued October 22, 1924. Arrived August 18, 1907 at Vancouver. (photograph attached)|
|Chong Do Dang
||MG55/30-No.166, Sam Family Fonds, C.I.5 certificate # 91638 issued February 11, 1922. Arrived on December 15, 1922 at Vancouver on the Empress of Japan, 10 years old, from Chen Yung Lee, Hay Ping.|
|Chong Lee (Quon Dock Fon)
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.28 certificate # 07326 issued December 5, 1916. Arrived January 12, 1897 at Victoria. (photograph attached)|
|Chong Tung (Chong Jun Den)
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.28 certificate # 12314 issued January 3, 1925. Arrived November 11, 1902 at Victoria.|
|Fung Tak Ming
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.36 certificate # 02955 issued December 22, 1913. Arrived November 5, 1911 at Vancouver. (photograph attached)|
|Gim Wing Hock
||RG 76, Volume 712, there is a note indicating that C.I.5 certificate No. 90618 issued to Gim Wing Hock was received from W.J. Dickman but there is no record of this certificate in the file.|
John Chew Hong (Yeu Chew Fun)
|RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.28 certificate # 06561 issued March 6, 1915. Arrived October 7, 1902 at Victoria. (photograph attached)|
|Jung Bak Hun
||RG 76, Vol.712, C.I.5 certificate # 88103, issued January 3, 1919. Arrived January 3, 1918 (note the discrepancy in dates) To Vancouver on Princess Alice Africa Maru, 11 years old, from Back Sai Hood, Hoy Ping (photograph attached)|
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.5 certificate # 48837 issued July 29, 1908. Arrived July 25, 1908 on Empress of Japan at Vancouver, 30 years old, from Nam Cam, Hoping.|
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.5 certificate # 23333 issued May 16, 1899. Arrived on May 16, 1899 on the Empress of India at Vancouver, 25 years old, from Ling Chung, Leung.|
|Jung Song Gee
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.5 certificate # 86638 issued November 6, 1918. Arrived November 3, 1918 on the Monteagle at Vancouver, 18 years old, from Den Sun Gee, Hoy Ping. (photograph attached)|
|Kwok Chee Mark
||MG55/30-No.116, C.I.5 certificate # 85422 issued March 25, 1918. Arrived on March 8, 1918 at Victoria on the S.S. Manila Maru, 13 years old, from Sun Chun, Sin Ning. (photograph attached)|
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.5 certificate # 72304 issued August 2, 1912. Arrived August 1, 1912 on the S.S. Teucer, Victoria, 20 years old, from Dai Jack , Sun Wang. (photograph attached)|
|Lee Mee Yew
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.5 certificate # 87231 issued May 5, 1914. Arrived May 3, 1914 on the Empress of Asia at Vancouver, 23 years old, from Kwo Low, Sui Ning. (photograph attached)|
|Lee Sha Yue (Wing Too)
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.46 certificate # 396 issued May 20, 1947. Crew member of the "S.S. Kingston" (photograph attached)|
|Lee Shing Dok
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.5 certificate # 78742 issued April 23, 1913. Arrived on April 23, 1913 on the Awa Maru at Victoria, 27 years old, from Os Yuck, Sin Ning. (photograph attached)|
|Lok King Chun
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.5 certificate # 39445 issued April 21, 1903. Arrived April 21, 1903 on S.S. Shinano Maru at Victoria B.C., 27 years old, from Tai Chun, Ching Shing.|
|Long Yee (Long Wing Chong)
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.28 certificate # 12189 issued November 24, 1924. Arrived October 21, 1896 at Vancouver.|
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.30 certificate # 02066 issued January 25, 1921. Arrived January 22, 1921 at Victoria on S.S. Tyndareus, from Tim Sum, Sin Woy, 35 years. (photograph attached)|
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.5 certificate # 35103 issued June 5, 1902. Arrived June 5, 1902 on Duke of Fife at Victoria B.C., 34 years old, from WanHoy, SinNing.|
|Seid Yew (Seid Dong)
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.36 certificate # 20880 issued July 7, 1924. Arrived April 9, 1898 at Victoria. (photograph attached)|
|Set Jeung Jon
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.5 certificate # 21942 issued February 9, 1899. Arrived on February 9, 1899 on Empress of China at Vancouver, 23 years old, from Juck Mau, Leung.|
|Ung Dip Jang
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I. 36 certificate # 06596 issued October 26, 1914. Arrived May 11, 1912 at Vancouver. (photograph attached)|
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.5 certificate # 62345 issued November 1, 1911. Arrived November 1, 1911 on S.S. Cyclops at Victoria, 28 years old, from Bakshing, Sin Ning.|
||RG 76, Volume 712, C.I.46 certificate # 262 issued April 11, 1945. Crew member of the S.S. Noronic, registered in Toronto, Ontario, aged 51, C.I.5 76211.|
General Registers of Chinese Immigration
Library and Archives Canada holds the General Registers of Chinese Immigration (RG 76 D2a), created at the headquarters of the Chinese Immigration Service in Ottawa. These registers list all immigrants of Chinese origin arriving in Canada between 1885 and 1949. Some entries for residents arriving in Canada date back to 1860. The names in the registers are arranged numerically by serial number, in approximate chronological order by the date the notice of the immigrant's arrival was submitted to Ottawa.
They include information such as:
- certificate number;
- place of birth;
- date and port of arrival in Canada; and
- head tax paid, etc.
The registers have been indexed and digitized in the Immigrants from China, 1885-1949 database.
Table 2: Registers of Chinese Immigration, 1885-1949 (RG 76 D2a): List of Microfilm Reel Numbers
Please note: Volumes 701 and 703 were filmed out of order
* Volumes 701 and 703 were filmed out of order.
Port of New Westminster Register of Chinese Immigration
In 1885, the collectors of customs were designated as Controllers of Chinese Immigration with responsibilities to register Chinese immigrants, collect the head tax and issue identification certificates. The Port of New Westminster Register of Chinese Immigration (1887-1908) (RG 76 D2bi, volume 693, microfilm C-9510) contains names of Chinese immigrants who registered and paid the head tax at the port of New Westminster, British Columbia, in the years 1887 to1898, 1907 and 1908. This is the only port register known to have survived. Names in this register should also be found in the Chinese General Registers of Immigration created by headquarters in Ottawa. The names are arranged in numerical sequence by declaration number.
This register has been indexed and digitized in the Immigrants from China, 1885-1949 database.
Newfoundland Register of Arrivals and Outward Registrations
The Newfoundland Register of Arrivals and Outward Registrations (RG 76 D2dv, volume 1071, microfilm T-3487) consists of two separate lists. The first list includes the names of Chinese persons entering Newfoundland as immigrants under the Newfoundland Chinese Immigration Act of 1906, who were issued identifying NF 63 certificate Nos. 1 to 384 from June 4, 1910 to March 26, 1949. The second list gives the names of persons leaving Newfoundland temporarily or permanently under Newfoundland C.I.9 certificate Nos. 1 to 436, issued from September 6, 1906 to February 24, 1950. Both lists are typed.
This register has been indexed and digitized in the Immigrants from China, 1885-1949 database.
Other Chinese immigration records
Once an immigrant's name has been located in the registers, the details listed can assist you in researching other records in our custody.
The main records are:
- C.I.28 register (1912-1947): Register that lists the C.I.28 certificates issued either to replace destroyed or lost identifying certificates or to identify "native-born" persons without such certificates.
- C.I.36 register (1913-1949): Register that lists the C.I.36 certificates issued to replace C.I.5 certificates issued before 1912.
- Vancouver and Victoria ledgers of exempt admissions (1914-1930): Ledgers that list Chinese immigrants arriving at Vancouver and Victoria who were exempted from payment of the head tax.
- Outward registration records (1906-1953): C.I.9 certificates and lists of persons to whom C.I.9 and C.I.9A certificates were issued in Vancouver and Victoria, lists of persons readmitted to Canada at Victoria under C.I.9/ 9-A certificates and other readmissions and cancellations.
The C.I.9 certificates for Vancouver and Victoria (RG 76 D2di, microfilm T-6038 to T-6052) are indexed and digitized in the Immigrants from China, 1885-1949 database.
For the other series, which are not indexed, see Chinese Immigration Records and Access the Records.
Research in other institutions and online
Research in published sources
- Chinese-Canadians in Search of Immigrant Ancestors: Current and Potential Resources, by Janet Tomkins. [PDF 1.29 MB]
- Evidence of "Past Injustices", Records relating to the Chinese Head Tax, by Ellen Scheinberg, The Archivist, volume 20, number 2, 1994. (AMICUS 74576)
- The Records of Chinese Immigration at the National Archives of Canada, by Bennett McCardle, Canadian Ethnic Studies, volume 19, numéro 3, 1987. (AMICUS 87766)
Search for books on Chinese in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject terms.