Scottish immigrant mother and children upon arrival.
Genealogy and Family History
Scots began arriving to Canada as early as the early seventeenth century. Sir William Alexander obtained permission from King James I to establish a Scottish settlement in 1622 named New Scotland or Nova Scotia. The colony failed to flourish, however, and few families settled in Canada before the British conquest in 1759. The majority of these early Scottish settlers were Roman Catholics seeking political and religious refuge, fur traders with the Hudson's Bay Company, merchants and disbanded soldiers.
After this early period there were also a number of Highland farmers who emigrated from Scotland after being ejected from their land to make way for sheep grazing. The primary destinations for these early settlers were agricultural communities in Upper Canada, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Cape Breton Island had a significant Scottish population, Gaelic being the only language spoken there. Scottish Loyalists arrived in Canada from the United States in 1783 and settled mainly in Glengarry, Upper Canada, and Nova Scotia. Lord Selkirk also settled over 800 Scottish migrants in Prince Edward Island in 1803 and placed many others in his Red River settlement in Manitoba in 1812. By 1815, there were already more than 15,000 Scots living in Canada.
Between 1815 and 1870, over 170,000 Scots immigrated, with increasing numbers settling in Quebec and Ontario, notably in Lanark County. They were a widely-varied group, including Highlanders and Lowlanders, farmers, teachers, merchants, clergymen and servants. Many were Presbyterian and English speaking. Many Scots were encouraged and supported by the British government and private companies in their effort to emigrate.
Scottish immigration to Canada continued into the twentieth century and increased the Scottish population to over 1 million by 1930. Most of these later Scottish migrants were farmers and farm labourers coming from the Lowland regions, while fewer Highlanders emigrated during that period. There were also many more industrial workers coming after 1900, many in the iron and steel industries. The primary destination for this later settlement of Scots was western Canada, with Manitoba receiving the largest numbers.
After the First World War, many Scots were able to gain passage to Canada under the Empire Settlement Act. Immigration from Scotland to Canada continued in large numbers throughout the twentieth century and between 1945 and 1993 approximately 260,000 settled in Canada. Today, there are approximately 4 million Canadians of Scottish heritage.
Research at Library and Archives Canada
Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files (RG 76)
- Glasgow Juvenile Delinquency Board - Girls Industrial School, Glasgow, RG 76, volume 119, file 22468, microfilm C-4782. File includes a list of children sent to Saint John, New Brunswick, between 1895 and 1906.
- Fifteen Parish trainees from Glasgow allocated to Toronto, 1927, Glasgow Training Scheme. RG 76, volume 323, file 310968, microfilm C-10236.
- Alexander McOwen, Virden, Manitoba - Special immigration agent to Scotland, 1904-1906, RG 76, volume 337, file 350610, microfilm C-10247. File includes list of names.
- Mackay Brothers, booking agent lists, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1915-1922. RG 76, volume 362, file 453045, microfilm C-10264.
- Mackay Brothers & Company, booking agent lists, Aberdeen, Scotland, 1910-1921. RG76, volume 564, file 809010, microfilm C-10644.
- Group of 27 labourers sent from from Leith, Scotland, 1906. RG 76, volume 367, file 484243, microfilm C-10268.
- Party from Stornoway sent out by the Queen Alexandra's Unemployed Fund, 1906. RG 76, volume 377, file 522409, microfilm C-10275.
- J. Bruce Walker, Commissioner of Immigration, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Letters from successful "Scotch" ploughmen, 1908-1911. RG 76, volume 548, file 805711, microfilm C-10633.
- H.W.J. Paton, Aberdeen, Scotland, booking agent, farm hands and domestics, lists, 1908-1921. RG 76, volume 538, file 803839, microfilm C-10627.
- Alexander Wyllie, Glasgow, Scotland. Bonus claims, lists, 1907-1909. RG 76, volume 415, file 601089, microfilm C-10302.
- D. Cumming, Glasgow, Scotland. Bonus claims, lists, 1907-1915, 1918. RG 76, volume 426, file 629453, microfilm C-10309.
- D. McFarlane, Glasgow, Scotland. Booking agent, lists, 1907-1923. RG 76, volume 435, file 652806, microfilm C-10315.
Library and Archives Canada also holds other government and private records relating to Scotland and Scottish families in Canada. Consult the Archives Search database using keywords such as Scotland, Scottish, “Scotch” emigration, immigr*, a place name, a surname or the name of an organization.
If you find references of interest to you, find out how to Access the Records.
Search other Library and Archives of Canada records in Ancestors Search.
Research in published sources
- A dictionary of Scottish emigrants to the U.S.A., by Donald Whyte (AMICUS 1220681)
- Adventurers and Exiles: The Great Scottish Exodus, by Marjory Harper. (AMICUS 31285423)
- Des Écossais à Rivière-du-Loup et leurs descendants, 1763-2004 by Jeannine Ouellet (AMICUS 33406944)
- Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada Before Confederation, by Donald Whyte. (AMICUS 5499331)
- Dictionary of Scottish Settlers in North America 1625-1825, by David Dobson. (AMICUS 4574525)
- Finding your Scottish ancestors, by Penelope Christensen. (AMICUS 27148169)
- Gravemarkers in Metropolitan Toronto and York Region indicating a Scottish Place of Birth, by Marjorie Stuart and Jack Tyson. (AMICUS 21096759)
- Help us to a Better Land: Crofter Colonies in the Prairie West, by Wayne Norton. (AMICUS 13229938)
- In the new land, a new Glengarry: migration from the Scottish Highlands to Upper Canada, by Marianne McLean. (AMICUS 7587173)
- Scottish Pioneers of Upper Canada, 1784-1855: Glengarry and beyond, by Lucille Campey. (AMICUS 30950876)
- Surnames of Scotland, by George F. Black. (AMICUS 1607488)
- The People of Glengarry: Highlanders in Transition, 1745-1820, by Marianne McLean. (AMICUS 10431509)
- The People's Clearance: Highland Emigration to British North America, 1770-1815, by J.M. Bumsted. (AMICUS 2960069)
- The Scots in Canada, by J.M. Bumsted
- The Scottish Nation, 1700-2000, by T.M. Devine.
- Tracing Your Scottish Ancestors, published by National Archives of Scotland. (AMICUS 31490120)
- Your Scottish Ancestry: a guide for North Americans, by Sherry Irvine. (AMICUS 15914946)
Search for other books on Scots in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject keywords such as:
- Scottish genealogy
- Scottish Canadians
- Scotland genealogy
Research at other institutions and online