Genealogy and Family History

The search for the Northwest Passage was the driving force behind Denmark’s first exploration attempts across the Atlantic Ocean. On September 7, 1619, in service to King Christian IV of Denmark, Captain Jens Munk landed at the mouth of the Churchill River in Northern Manitoba, named the site “Munk’s Bay” and claimed the land for Denmark. That first voyage did not result in a permanent settlement as most of the 66-member crew did not survive the harsh winter. Munk and two other survivors returned to Europe in 1620.

Although there are early accounts of Danes working as trappers in Canada, little documentation exists that describes their experiences. By the 1860s, political unrest, religious divide and the promise of a better life in America, all contributed to the migration of Danish people to Canada and the United States.

The Danes are the only Scandinavian group to settle in large numbers in the Maritimes. In 1872, a group of settlers accompanied by recruiting agent Captain Heller arrived in New Brunswick and founded the community of New Denmark.

In the Prairie provinces, the first Danish immigrants came from the American Midwest and Northwest. The community of Dickson in Alberta, founded in 1902, is the oldest Danish community in the Prairies.

In Ontario, the city of London was a chosen destination for the Danes at the turn of the century. The community of Pass Lake near Thunder Bay was established in 1924.

From 1870 to the First World War, some 20,000 Danish immigrants from Denmark or the United States came to settle in Canada. After the Second World War and until the early 1960s, the economic prosperity of Canada attracted thousands of Danes and the number of Canadians of Danish origin more than doubled. In 2006, more than 200,000 Canadians reported Danish ancestry.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Alf Erling Porsild, 1926–1964 (MG 31 J10) (MIKAN 103900)

Dr. Alf Erling Porsild, botanist, was born and educated in Copenhagen, Denmark. He served at the Danish Biological Station at Godhavn, Greenland, 1922-1925. The fonds consists of a report, dated 1945, of a journey and conference in the U.S.S.R. and a microfilm copy of field journals and reports, 1926–1964. The journals can be consulted on microfilm M-1958.

Fritz Johansen, 1913–1916 (MG 30 B 165, vol. 1) (MIKAN 98108)

Fritz Johansen was a zoologist and naturalist on the Danish Expedition to Greenland, 1906–1908. He was employed by the Department of Naval Services to serve as oceanologist on the Canadian Arctic Expedition, 1913–1916. The fonds consists of a report on Marine Biology for the Canadian Arctic Expedition, private diaries from the period 1914 to 1915, a diary of the Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913–1916, and one letter from V. Stefansson in 1914, asking him to volunteer for a trip in the Arctic North of Canada.

General Correspondence, Department of Agriculture (RG 17)

  • C.C. Meyer, Ottawa. Asking Assistance Towards Holding Meetings among the Danes in Saskatchewan. (RG 17, vol. 1121, file 207743) (MIKAN 1991332)
  • Intercolonial Railway Special Transport account for Danes (RG 17, vol. 380, file 40891) (MIKAN 1915244)
  • A. Rimmer, Consul General of Denmark, Consul General of Denmark, Montreal (RG 17, vol. 34, file 3075) (MIKAN 1972341)

Immigration Branch, Central Registry Files (RG 76)

  • C.C. Meyer, Royal Danish Vice-Consulate, Ottawa, Folder in the Danish Norwegian language entitled “What Danes can do in Canada” (pamphlet) (RG 76, vol. 162, microfilm C-7319) (MIKAN 1432356)

Library and Archives Canada holds other records pertaining to Danish immigrants to Canada. Consult the Collection Search database using keywords such as a surname or the name of an organization.

Research at Other Institutions and Online

Research in Published Sources

Search for books on the Danes in Aurora, using authors, titles or subject terms such as:

  • Danes
  • Danish Canadians
  • Denmark

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