​​​​                 Chadwick Sandles,
English immigrant travelling alone

Genealogy and family history

The voyages of John and Sebastian Cabot marked the beginning of England's interest toward North America. The Italian father John (Zuan Chabotto) and son Sebastian (Sebastiano Caboto), in service to the British Crown, landed on the coast of Newfoundland early in the summer of 1497.

In 1610, British explorer Henry Hudson made his way into the inland sea and claimed the area on the bay that now bears his name. Newfoundland was the site of the first English colony and was settled by fishermen who arrived from Devon in 1611 and put down roots in Conception Bay.

The capture of the fortress of Louisbourg in 1758 followed by Quebec City in 1759 led to the end of the French presence in New France and Acadia, which further solidified the British presence on the continent. The British also secured the colony's West Coast as part of their North American empire. Captain James Cook arrived at Nootka Sound in 1778 and his fellow seaman, Captain George Vancouver, later charted the northwest coast of British Columbia for the British navy.

From 1775 to 1783, during the American Revolution, an influx of English Loyalist settlers migrated to Nova Scotia, Lower Canada (Quebec), New Brunswick and Upper Canada (Ontario). The exodus from the United States to what would become Canada lasted until the War of 1812 when the British Forces mobilized their regiments to defend their colony from an American invasion.

At the time of Canada's Confederation, English philanthropic organizations started sending groups of orphans and pauper children to Canada. More than 100,000 children arrived in Canada between 1869 and the late 1930s. It is estimated that more than four million Canadians are descendants of British Home Children.

The quest for land encouraged the English to migrate to Rupert's Land, as the Canadian West was known at the time. Most immigrants did not travel in cohorts, but settled individually in the Canadian Prairies, except for the Barr Colony whose 2,000 members, led by Reverend Barr, founded Lloydminster in Saskatchewan in 1903. Immigration to Canada continued to soar until the outbreak of the First World War, but resumed in the early 1920s when the Empire Settlement Act was brought in to offer training and financial incentives to prospective immigrants to Canada. It continued on a steady basis throughout the 20th century; in 2011, more than 6.5 million people in Canada declared British ancestry.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Phillips Thompson fonds, 1879–1923 (R7667-0-5-E) (MIKAN 101442)

The fonds consists of correspondence relating to Phillips Thompson's writing and socialist activities, including several letters from Henry George, 1879–1923. Other letters are from such people as Wilfrid Laurier, Goldwin Smith, the Russian archivist Peter Alexeivich Kropotkin, John Delvin, A.W. Wright and Pierre Berton. There are also manuscripts, memorabilia and clippings.

Richard D. Robertson fonds (R11550-0-8-E) (MIKAN 1592962)

The fonds consists of papers created or received by Richard D. Robertson mainly relating to his career as a member of the RCMP as well as to his personal experiences in England, the United States, and Canada. Material includes reminiscences of his early days as a young constable in New Brunswick in the 1930s, his experience as "Boy Farm Learner" in Guelph, Ontario. There are also diaries he kept while on duty as a guard during the 1939 Royal Visit and as Chief of Security for the Canadian contingent at the 1954 Geneva Conference. Transcripts of many of these documents are also included.

Middlemore Children's Emigration Homes fonds (MG 28 I 492) (MIKAN 107020)

The fonds consists of microfilmed records of the Middlemore Homes relating to the creation and operation of a child welfare organization and its efforts to assist, train and move impoverished and endangered children. The records can be researched with the help of finding aid 2057. They include: Settlement and Reports of Children sent to Canada; Committee and House Committee Minute Books; Application Books; History Books; Parents' Consent Forms and Aftercare Visits; Case Files; correspondence; and printed annual reports.

Hudson's Bay Company (HBC)

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds copies of the records found in the Hudson's Bay Company Archives. The records must be viewed on site. The different series are described in the Collection Search database.

LAC also holds private and government records regarding English families. Consult the Collection Search database using keywords such as a surname or the name of an organization.

British immigration to Canada is depicted extensively in the following government record groups: RG 76 (Immigration), RG 17 (Agriculture), RG 30 (Canadian National Railways) RG 18 (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), RG 7 (Office of the Governor General), RG 2 (Privy Council Office). Lists of names are included in some records. A search using the keywords "Empire Settlement Act" will also yield several results on the topic of English immigration and settlement.

  • Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files Applicants who have relinquished participation in the British Family Settlement Scheme (Empire Settlement Act) (contains lists), RG 76, volume 270, file 228719, microfilm reel C-7818 (R1206-127-4-E) (MIKAN 1432906)
  • Transfer of English residential school students to Canadian schools (contains lists), RG 76, volume 451, part 1, file 692762, microfilm reels C-10326 and C-10325 (MIKAN 1434191)
  • Unemployed immigrants at Chatham, Ontario (English), RG 76, volume 478, file 741316, microfilm reel C-10414 (MIKAN 1434385)
  • Henry James Morgan fonds [textual record, graphic material] (R7531-0-8-E) John Cabot (MIKAN 2426581)
  • Commissioner of Immigration, Toronto, Mr. Venall, English Lectures; Free land grants of Ontario, RG 17, volume 120, file 11766, (MIKAN 1979621)
  • List of pauper children reported upon by G. Bogue Smart, Inspector of British Immigrant Children (lists and index), RG 76, volume 266, file 222479, microfilm reel C-7815 (MIKAN 1432884)

Research at other institutions and online

Research in published sources

  • British Emigration to North America, by W.S. Shepperson. (OCLC 238059)
  • British emigration into the Saskatchewan valley: the Barr colony, 1903, its bibliographical foundation, by Guy R. Lyle. (OCLC 317523391)
  • British immigration before Confederation, by Helen I. Cowan. (OCLC 30935)
  • British immigration to British North America 1815–1860, by H.J.M. Johnston. (OCLC 59733500)
  • Children of the Empire, by Gillian Wagner. (OCLC 869495755)
  • A History of Emigration from the United Kingdom to North America, 1763–1912, by Stanley C. Johnson. (OCLC 1032850102)
  • The Little Immigrants: The Orphans Who Came to Canada, by Kenneth Bagnell. (OCLC 48230046)
  • Muddling through: the remarkable story of the Barr Colonists, by Lynne Bowen. (OCLC 26258048)
  • Nation builders: Barnardo children in Canada, by Gail H. Corbett. (OCLC 50581425)

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

  • English genealogy
  • British genealogy
  • British Canada
  • British Immigration
  • British immigrants
Date modified: