Polish immigrants

  Group of people looking out a train window
Polish immigrants on train for new home.
William James Topley collection, PA-010392

Dominik Barcz has the distinction of being the first Polish immigrant to Canada on record. Born in Gdansk, Barcz was a fur merchant who traveled to Canada in 1752, choosing to settle in the city of Montreal. Immigration from Poland to Canada continued over the years however it wasn't until the mid-nineteenth century that Canada, and particularly the province of Ontario, experienced a marked influx of immigrants arriving from Poland.

The first wave of Polish immigrants to Canada was primarily Kashubes of northern Poland. With their homeland partitioned by Prussian occupation, many Kashubian families made the journey to the Renfrew area of eastern Ontario, taking advantage of tenders of free land. Many of these newly arrived immigrants settled in the town of Wilno, Ontario, which today is recognized as the oldest Polish settlement in Canada. By 1862, another significant group of Poles immigrated to Canada, with the majority settling this time in Berlin, Ontario, presently known as Kitchener.

The next wave of Polish immigration to Canada occurred through the 1890s until the start of the First World War. Stimulated by an aggressive population growth together with the unavailability of workable farm land, Poles from the Russian and Austrian areas of a partitioned Poland came to Canada hoping for a better future. This influx of Polish immigrants and the newly-opened Canadian west were a perfect match.

Polish immigration was severely restricted during the Depression era in Canada with only about 3,500 immigrants allowed into Canada, primarily on the basis of family reunification. However by the end of the Second World War until 1956, approximately 64,000 Polish exiles and refugees came to Canada.

By 1951, Canadian census returns show that over 200,000 Poles were living in Canada. By 1971 this number climbed to over 300,000.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers (LI-RA-MA) collection (MG 30 E406)

Material consists of documents created between 1898 and 1922 by the consular offices of the Russian Empire in Canada. The series on passports and identity papers is comprised of about 11,400 files on Russian, Jewish, Ukrainian, Finnish and Polish immigrants who came to Canada from the Russian Empire. The series includes passport applications and questionnaires containing general information.

Immigrants from the Russian Empire / Likacheff-Ragosine-Mathers (LI-RA-MA) Collection

Canadian Polish Congress (CPC), 1903-1980 (MG 28 V10)

The Canadian Polish Congress was founded as an umbrella organization to coordinate the activities of Polish organizations in promoting the Canadian war effort during World War II. This collection is of particular interest to researchers in the history of Polish Canadians, particularly the post-Second World War immigration to Canada.

Holy Ghost Parish, 1887-1960, 1974 (MG 9 E54)

Holy Ghost Parish was founded in 1899 in Winnipeg, Manitoba and is the oldest Polish Roman Catholic parish in western Canada. Fonds consists of school reports, passports, workbooks, military service books, travel documents, baptismal certificates and a Jubilee Memorial Book as well as a microfilmed Codex Historicus, 1898-1960. Microfilm H-1812.

Arthur D. LePan, 1917-1919 (MG 30 E277)

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur D. LePan (1885-1976), served in the Canadian Army and was Camp Commandant of the Polish Army Camp at Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1917-1919. Fonds consists of a two volume diary kept by LePan as Commandant of the Polish Army Camp at Niagara-on-the-Lake. The diary is a complete record of Camp events, personnel, and contains information on the training and movement of troops and arrangements of supply and accommodation.

Our Lady of Czestochowa, Queen of Poland (Roman Catholic) Church (Wilno, Ontario), 1858, 1877-1978 (MG 9 D7-50)

This Roman Catholic parish was established in 1876 and was the first Polish language parish in Canada. It was originally named St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish. Fonds consists of baptismal registers, marriage registers, burial records, first communion records and confirmation records. Microfilms H-1456 and H-1457.

Immigration Branch, Central Registry Files (RG 76)

  • Admission to Canada of 4000 former Polish soldiers for agricultural work, 1946-1947, RG 76, volumes 648 and 649, file A85451, parts 1 to 3, microfilm C-10588
  • Admission of Polish orphan children from Europe, 1948-1949, RG 76, volume 660, file B74072, microfilm C-10596
  • Polish Immigration, 1942-1945, RG 76, volume 630, file 962419, part 11, microfilm C-10446
  • Polish Passports, 1919-1926, RG 76, volume 631, file 963825, part 1, microfilm C-10446
  • Polish Immigration, 1935-1947, RG 76, volume 630, file 962419, parts 8 to 12, microfilms C-10445 and C-10446

Other series of records

Library and Archives Canada holds other archival records relating to Polish Canadians. Consult the Archives Search database using keywords such as a surname or an organization name.

Research at other institutions and online

Research in published sources

  • Finding your Polish Ancestors, by Kathleen Ann LaBudie-Szakall and Jan Steven Zaleski
  • A Translation Guide to 19th-Century Polish-Language Civil-Registration Documents: (Birth, Marriage, and Death Records), compiled and edited by Judith R. Frazin
  • Genealogical Gazetteer of Galicia, by Brian J. Lenius
  • Poland/Prussia: How to Locate Vital Records of Former Prussian Areas of Poland in the Genealogical Library, by Daniel M. Schlyter
  • The Poles in Canada, by D.H. Avery and J.K. Fedrowicz
  • Creating Kashubia: History, Memory and Identity in Canada's First Polish Community, by Joshua C. Blank

Search for other books on Poland and the Polish in Library Search, using authors, titles or subject terms such as:

  • Polish genealogy
  • Poland genealogy
  • Polish genealogies
  • Polish Canadians
  • Polish immigration
  • Polish immigrants
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