Immigration, Naturalization and Citizenship Records

Immigration:  Passenger Lists

While federal immigration and citizenship records prior to 1917 are very sketchy, one very important source is the extensive collection of lists of passengers arriving in Canadian ports beginning in 1865. These lists were compiled under law by ships transporting people to Canada. The original passenger lists are held by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and have been microfilmed for dissemination to the public.

The following table lists passenger manifests of ships arriving at Canadian ports of entry which are available at LAC, and indicates whether or not the Provincial Archives has a microfilm copy:

Port of arrivalDate of Arrival
(covered by LAC records)
Available on microfilm at Provincial Archives
Québec City & Montréal, Québec1865 - 19351865 - 1926
Halifax, Nova Scotia1881 - 19351881 - 1922 and 1929
Saint John, New Brunswick1900 - 19351900 - 1922
North Sydney, Nova Scotia1906 - 19351906 - 1922
Vancouver, British Columbia1905 - 1935No
Victoria, British Columbia1905 - 1935No
Via New York1906 - 19311906 - 1922
Via eastern United States ports1905 - 1928No

Please Note:

  • The Québec City and Montréal, Québec port was closed during the winter months, because of the freeze-up of the St. Lawrence River.  
  • Arrivals at Montréal between 1865 and 1924 are included in the Québec lists. 
  • The North Sydney, Nova Scotia listings include mostly ferry arrivals from Newfoundland and St-Pierre et Miquelon, with a few passengers in transit from other countries.
  • The United States lists include only the names of passengers who stated that they intended to proceed directly to Canada.

The lists are arranged by date of arrival of ships into particular ports, so it is helpful if researchers know approximately what date and in what port their ancestors arrived. Since ship’s passenger lists were not arranged alphabetically, researchers may have to search through an entire manifest in order to locate pertinent entries. The Provincial Archives staff is unable to look for individuals on these lists on behalf of a researcher unless the ship name, port of entry, and approximate date of arrival are provided.

The information that is generally provided by these records is the name, age, sex, occupation, nationality and intended destination of each passenger.

Passenger lists for 1865 to 1922 have been digitized by Library and Archives Canada.  A searchable database for these lists is available on the LAC website at: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/databases/passenger/index-e.html.

This database provides full access to the digitized copies of the ships manifests.  The search screen allows you to search by: name of ship; year of arrival; port of arrival; shipping line; and/or port of departure.  For more information on how to find records using this database consult the “Search Help” section of the LAC website, linked above.

For more information about immigration and citizenship records and the various tools available to search these records please visit the Library and Archives Canada’s Canadian Genealogy website at:http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/Pages/introduction.aspx .

Immigration:  Border Entry Records

Many immigrants to Canada came from the United States or sailed from Europe to American ports on their way to Canada.  Prior to April 1908, people were able to move freely across the border from the United States into Canada; no record of immigration exists for those individuals.  Additionally, not all immigrants crossing the border after 1908 were registered, so there may not be a record for these individuals.  In some cases immigrants crossed the border when the ports were closed, or they crossed at locations where there was no port.

The Provincial Archives holds border entry records on microfilm for the period 1908-1918.  The border entry records contain genealogical information about each immigrant such as age, country of birth, last place of residence, occupation and destination in Canada.  These records cover all of the border entry points in Canada for 1908-1918.  The original border entry records are housed by Library and Archives Canada.

The border entry records are arranged alphabetically by the name of the port and/or the border crossing and the date of arrival.  The following table lists the availability of microfilm reels from this collection at the Provincial Archives:

 Reel NumbersPort of Arrival Covered
Available at Provincial Archives

T-5461 to 
T-5507

Aldergrove, BC to Yarmouth, NS

For a complete listing of the microfilm records held by Library and Archives Canada for the years 1908 to 1918, consult the listing provided on the Library and Archives Canada website here at: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/microform-digitization/006003-110.02-e.php?&q2=30&interval=50&sk=0&&PHPSESSID=pgu74hjaupu9qmj7ao9j21gtb3

For information on how to access border entry records for 1919 to 1924, consult the listings provided on the Library and Archives Canada website here: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/microform-digitization/006003-110.02-e.php?&q2=1&interval=50&sk=0&&PHPSESSID=pgu74hjaupu9qmj7ao9j21gtb3.  For border entry records for the years 1925-1935, consult their website here: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/microform-digitization/006003-110.02-e.php?&q2=31&interval=50&sk=0&&PHPSESSID=pgu74hjaupu9qmj7ao9j21gtb3

Citizenship (Naturalization) Records

The Canadian Citizenship Act came into force on 1 January 1947. From 1763 to 1947, persons born in the provinces and colonies of British North America were all British subjects. Being of equal status, immigrants from Great Britain and the Commonwealth did not need be to be naturalized. If they were not already British subjects, homesteaders had to become naturalized before they could obtain patent (title) to the land.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada holds the records of naturalization and citizenship from 1854 to the present. Unfortunately, the originals of records dated between 1854 and 1917 have been destroyed. However, a nominal card index has been maintained and provides information given at the time of naturalization, including:

  • present and former place of residence
  • former nationality
  • occupation
  • date of certification
  • name and location of the responsible court

This index rarely contains any other genealogical information.

Records created after 1917 are more detailed, and the information given includes:

  • surname
  • given name
  • date and place of birth
  • date of entry into Canada
  • in some cases, the names of spouses and children

Requests for copies of naturalization/citizenship records from 1854 to the present should be submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Canada.  For details on how to submit your request please consult the information on citizenship records on the Library and Archives Canada’s Canadian Genealogy website at: http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/citizenship-naturalization-records/Pages/introduction.aspx