Children of the Ottawa Jewish community on steps of the Old Talmud Torah Hall, George St., Ottawa, Ontario.
Genealogy and Family History
Jewish immigrants, primarily from Western Europe, began arriving on North American shores by the middle of the eighteenth century. However as proclaimed by law, colonization to New France was restricted to Catholics only. Some Jews circumvented this restriction by converting to Catholicism while others chose to settle further south in British occupied territory. After the fall of New France, Jews began to settle openly in Canada as British rule resulted in more religious tolerance.
The first significant arrival of Jews to Canada was a direct result of the establishment of the British forces. Many Jewish immigrants to Canada arrived as troops of General Jeffery Amherst who overthrew the city of Montreal in 1760. Several of these men chose to remain and within years Montreal's first Jewish community was established. It was this burgeoning Jewish community that built Shearith Israel, Canada's first synagogue in 1768.
In 1831, census results for Upper and Lower Canada listed 197 Jewish people. By 1851 this number had more than doubled to 451. Whereas earlier Jewish settlers were primarily drawn from the ranks of the British military, the Jewish Canadian in the mid nineteenth century was primarily middle class and engaged in business and trade.
Faced with increasing hardship, violence and anti-Semitism throughout Europe, 15,000 Jews immigrated to Canada in the latter half of the nineteenth century. By the outbreak of the First World War, Canada's Jewish population had grown to 100,000. Roughly three-quarters of this Jewish population was located in the cities of Montreal and Toronto. Canadian immigration laws became more restrictive and selective after the First World War with only 15,000 Jews granted entry into Canada.
In the years leading up to and throughout the Second World War, Canada failed to adopt any kind of refugee program. By the time the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933 and until 1945, it was basically impossible for Jews to seek asylum in Canada. With the end of the war, Canada loosened its immigration policy and by 1949 accepted over 40,000 Holocaust survivors. In following years, Canada was again the destination, this time for many French-speaking Jews, seeking refuge from aggression and volatility in several North African nations.
Today, Canada's 370,000 Jews make Canada home to the fourth largest Jewish population in the world. Most Canadian Jewry lives in the provinces of Québec and Ontario and particularly in the city of Toronto.
Research at Library and Archives Canada
The Jacob M. Lowy Collection comprises 3000 volumes of old and rare Hebraica and Judaica printed between the 15th and 20th centuries in cities and towns spanning four continents. The intellectual scope of the collection encompasses religious, scientific, historical and philological thought. There is also a 2500 volume reference collection consisting of monographs and bibliographical periodicals focusing on the origin, spread and collecting of printed and manuscript Hebraica and Judaica, in addition to institutional and exhibition catalogues, encyclopedias and other reference sources. The Saul Hayes Collection of 200 original manuscripts in Hebrew and other Jewish languages is also located in the Jacob M. Lowy Room, along with microform holdings of the manuscript collections of selected European institutions.
Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers (LI-RA-MA) Collection (MG 30 E406)
The Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers (LI-RA-MA) collection consists of documents created by the Imperial Russian Consular offices in Canada during the period from 1898 to 1922. The Passport/Identity Papers series consists of about 11,400 files on Russian immigrants from the Imperial Russian Empire who settled in Canada, including Jews, Ukrainians and Finns. The index and digitized images of the files of the Passport/Identity Papers series are available online.
Immigration Branch, Central Registry Files (RG 76)
- Jewish Colonization Association, Montreal, 1920-1951, RG 76, volume 82, file 8520, parts 1 to 3, microfilm C-4749
- Admission of Jewish children from unoccupied France, 1942-1948, RG 76, volume 477, file 739325, parts 1 and 2, microfilm C-10412 and C-10413
- Canadian Jewish Congress, RG 76, volume 660, file B65714, microfilm C-10595
Juvenile Inspection Reports (RG 76 C4c)
Immigration officials created inspection report cards as they carried out regular inspections of British Home Children brought to Canada by various organizations in the 1920s. There is usually one page per child, with name, age or date of birth, name of ship and the names and addresses of farmers with whom they were placed. This series also includes inspection cards for some European children, including those brought to Canada by the Canadian Jewish War Orphans Committee (1920-1921).
The Juvenile Inspections Reports are available on the following microfilm reels, arranged in approximate alphabetical order:
- T-15420 A to CARDNO, Leslie
- T-15421 CARDWELL, Andrew to EVANS, Arthur E.
- T-15422 EVANS, Arthur L. to HENDERSON, Ann F.
- T-15423 HENDERSON, Charles H. to LOCK, Annie
- T-15424 LOCK, Herbert to O'BRIEN, Samuel
- T-15425 O'BRIEN, Thomas to SHAW, Victor
- T-15426 SHAW, Walter A. to WEALE, Walter
- T-15427 WEALLS, Eric to ZYCZYNSKI, Leon
Canadian National Committee on Refugees collection, 1934-1948 (MG 28 V43)
The Canadian National Committee on Refugees and Victims of Political Persecution was active from 1938 to 1948. Collection consists of case files, correspondence, subject files, minutes, reports, financial records, published material, a scrapbook and material pertaining to the League of Nations Society. The collections also contain photographs depicting refugees in both Canada and Europe, as well as displaced-persons camps in Europe.
Chesed Shel Emes Chapel (Winnipeg), 1946-1969 (MG 28 V153)
The Chesed Shel Emes Chapel was established in 1930 to serve the Jewish community of Winnipeg and to a lesser extent western Canada. Fonds consists of Directory of Deceased (1946-1969), which covers all Jewish burials in Winnipeg, and gives the name of the deceased, death date, burial date, and the cemetery of burial. The entries are in English and Hebrew and are arranged alphabetically and chronologically. The originals are held by the Chesed Shel Emes Chapel. Microfilm reel M-7762.
Congregation Shaarey Zedek, 1889-1983 (MG 9 E5-5
Congregation Shaarey Zedek is the oldest congregation with continuous service to a Jewish community in Western Canada. The fonds consists of management and financial records, vital statistics and cemetery records. Microfilm reels M-7471 to M-7477.
Congregation Shearith Israel, ca. 1778-1952, 1987 (MG 8 G67
Nine years after the British conquest of New France, a small group of Jewish settlers from England, the American colonies, and Germany established the first Jewish congregation in Canada in 1768. The Fonds consists of minutes, minute book, bulletins, Prothonorary's registers, correspondence, lectures and programmes. Also included are by-laws, registers of births, marriages and deaths, records of annual general meetings. Microfilms H-985, M-3786, M-3789, M-4601.
Holy Blossom Hebrew Congregation, 1856 - 1969 (MG 9 D7-57)
The congregation of Holy Blossom Temple of Toronto is the oldest Jewish congregation in Canada west of Montreal. The fonds consists of congregational records including minutes, financial records, correspondence, by-laws and registers of births, marriages and burials. Microfilms M-4601, M-5925 to M-5931.
Other Series of Records
Library and Archives Canada also holds other private records regarding Jewish families. Consult the Archives Search database using keywords such as a surname or an organization name.
The following is a sampling of some Jewish periodicals available at Library and Archives Canada.
- Canadian Jewish Chronicle
- Canadian Jewish News
- Canadian Jewish Review
- Canadian Jewish Times
- Canadian Zionist
- Jewish Daily Eagle
- Jewish Standard
- Jewish Times
- Toledot: the journal of Jewish genealogy
Research in Published Sources
- A Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Jewry, 1909-1914: from the Canadian Jewish Times, by Lawrence F. Tapper. (AMICUS 12663282)
- Americans of Jewish descent: a compendium of genealogy, compiled by Malcolm H. Stern. (AMICUS 1664276)
- Discovering your Jewish Ancestors, by Barbara Krasner-Khait. (AMICUS 26181906)
- Finding your Jewish Ancestors, by Henry Wellisch and Gert Solnik-Rogers. (AMICUS 26276276)
- First American Jewish families: 600 genealogies, 1654-1977, compiled by Malcolm H. Stern. (AMICUS 375794)
- Index of Jews Resident in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island according to the 1861 to 1901 Censuses of Canada, by Glen Eker and Deborah Pekilis. (AMICUS 28938341)
- Index of Jews Resident in Newfoundland according to the Censuses of 1921, 1935 and 1945, by Glen Eker. (AMICUS 31299252)
- Index of Jews Resident in the Province of Quebec according to the 1861 to 1901 Censuses of Canada, by Glen Eker. (AMICUS 30525052)
- Index of Jews Resident in Western Canada according to the 1870 to 1901 Censuses of Canada, by Glen Eker. (AMICUS 32703882)
- The Jews in Canada, by Bernard L. Vigod.
- Salt fish and shmattes : the history of the Jews in Newfoundland and Labrador from 1770, by Robin McGrath (AMICUS 32491948)
Search for other books on Jews and Jewish immigration in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject keywords such as:
- Canadian Jewry
- Jewish genealogy
- Jewish genealogies
- Jewish immigration
- Jews immigration
- Jews genealogy
Research at Other Institutions and Online
The International Committee of the Red Cross holds concentration Camp records and records of Displaced Persons (DP Camps). Canadian residents should contact their local branch of the Canadian Red Cross, which will forward the request on their behalf to the relevant office in Europe.