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Europeans. The original European settlers came in the early 18th century from France or from French Canada. They first settled the area surrounding the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, which now separate Ontario from Michigan. Ontario has continued to receive significant numbers of overseas settlers from that time to the present day.
Americans, Loyalists. Beginning in 1784, large numbers of American Loyalists came from the United States to settle along the St. Lawrence River.
Most of the earliest settlers of Upper Canada (Ontario) were natives of the United States. By 1810, eighty percent of the white population of the province was estimated to have been born in the U.S., but only 25 percent of them were Loyalists (who had arrived by 1796) or their descendants. The rest were Americans who had recently come to Canada for land or other economic opportunities. New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were listed as states of origin of many of these "late Loyalists," as they were sometimes called.
British. The British Isles soon replaced the United States as the main source of immigration to Ontario. Many Irish settlers came beginning about 1820. About sixty percent of the Canadian Irish were Protestant.
Eastern Europeans. Large numbers of immigrants came into Ontario from Britain and from eastern Europe during the pre-World War I period, 1891-1914. Jews, Slavs, and Italians contributed to the ethnic diversity of large cities such as Toronto.
Canadian Emigrants. A favorite 19th-century destination of Canadians leaving Ontario was Michigan. About one out of every four Michigan families finds a direct connection to Ontario.
There are only a few scattered immigration records for Ontario for the period before 1865. There are several incomplete lists of Loyalist settlers in Ontario. For example:
Crowder, Norman K. Early Ontario Settlers: A Source Book. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993. (Family History Library book 971.3 H29c.) Transcribes and indexes various provisioning lists and returns of settlers during 1783-89.
Fitzgerald, E. Keith. Ontario People 1796-1803. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1993. (Family History Library book 971.3 D2f.) Has district Loyalist rolls.
"Emigrant Returns of early settlers, 1815-1834"in Land records, ca. 1792-1876. (Family History Library films 1319966 items 1-5 and 1319967 items 6-11.) These are mainly for Lanark, Leeds, and Perth counties. The Archives of Ontario has filmed copies.
Bruce S. Elliott ; index by De Alton Owens.The McCabe list : early Irish in the Ottawa valley. Toronto, Ontario : Ontario Genealogical Society, 1991, ISBN: 0-7779-2124-3 (Family History Library book 971.383 W2e). This list contains the names, places of origin in Ireland, and more information for nearly Irish men who lived in and near Bytown (now Ottawa) in 1829.
Names and addresses of some later Ontario immigrants and of the relatives they left behind are in:
Holt, Ruth and Margaret Williams. Genealogical Extraction and Index of the Canada Company Remittance Books 1843-1847. Three Volumes. Weston, Ontario and Oakville, Ontario: Holt and Williams, 1990. (Family History Library book 971.3 W29g; film 2055555 Item 1.)
Various collections of papers in the Archives of Ontario and the National Archives of Canada list names from British-subsidized emigration programs such as the Irish movement into the Ottawa Valley and near Peterborough, 1823-1825, led by Peter Robinson. Many of those lists have been published in various sources, including those given in Brenda D. Merriman's Genealogy in Ontario.
Overseas immigrants to Ontario usually landed at Quebec or at ports in the northeastern U.S., then took smaller vessels or came overland into Ontario. Very few lists for Canadian ports exist before 1865, and only a handful for U.S. ports prior to 1820. Some names of early immigrants have been indexed in:
Filby, P. William. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. Three Volumes. plus annual supplements. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research, 1981-. (Family History Library book Ref 973 W32p; also on film and fiche.)
Passenger lists for ships coming to major Canadian ports after 1865 are described in the Emigration and Immigration section of the Canada Research Outline (34545).
Ontario Department of Immigration Records, 1869-1897
Under the confederation of 1867, both the Dominion Government and the Provincial Governments had responsibility for immigration. The Archives of Ontario and the Family History Library have some Ontario Department of Immigration records for 1869-97.
Much family information is included in two alphabetical series of Six-Dollar Bonus Refunds for 1872-76. About one-fifth of the immigrants into Ontario during that time had such papers. See:
- Refund bonus applications (Series J). (On five rolls of microfilm, Family History Library films 1405787-88 and 1405910-12.)
- Refund bonus certificates (Series I). (On six Family History Libraryfilms 1412649 and 1405952-56.)
See also this useful record:
Applications for Passage Warrants (Series L). 1872-88. Four Volumes. (Family History Library film 1405912.) Lists names and locations in Ontario of immigrants whose passage was paid by sponsors. Family members' names and ages are sometimes given. The 1872 and 1873 lists give some immigrants' exact street addresses in Europe.
These and other Ontario Department of Immigration records are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under ONTARIO - EMIGRATION AND IMMIGRATION.
Records of ethnic groups, including Mennonites, Scots, Germans, and Blacks are listed in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under ONTARIO - MINORITIES.
Canadian Border Crossing Records
The United States kept records of people crossing the border from Canada to the United States. These records are called border crossing lists, passenger lists, or manifests. There are two kinds of manifests:
- Manifests of people sailing from Canada to the United States.
- Manifests of people traveling by train from Canada to the United States.
In 1895, Canadian shipping companies agreed to make manifests of passengers traveling to the United States. The Canadian government allowed U.S. immigration officials to inspect those passengers while they were still in Canada. The U.S. immigration officials also inspected train passengers traveling from Canada to the United States. The U.S. officials worked at Canadian seaports and major cities like Quebec and Winnipeg. The manifests from every seaport and emigration station in Canada were sent to St. Albans, Vermont.
The Family History Library has copies of both kinds of manifests. Because the manifests were sent to St. Albans, Vermont, they are called St. Albans District Manifest Records of Aliens Arriving from Foreign Contiguous Territory. Despite the name, the manifests are actually from seaports and railroad stations all over Canada and the northern United States, not just Vermont.
Border Crossing Manifests. Manifests may include each passenger's name, port or station of entry, date of entry, literacy, last residence, previous visits to the United States, and birthplace. The manifests are reproduced in two series:
Manifests of Passengers Arriving in the St. Albans, Vermont, District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports, 1895-January 1921. (608 rolls; FHL films 1561087-499.) Includes records from seaports and railroad stations all over Canada and the northern United States. These manifests provide two types of lists:
-–Traditional passenger lists on U.S. immigration forms.
-–Monthly lists of passengers crossing the border on trains. These lists are divided by month. In each month, the records are grouped by railroad station. (The stations are listed in alphabetical order.) Under the station, the passengers are grouped by railroad company.
Manifests of Passengers Arriving in the St. Albans, Vermont, District through Canadian Pacific Ports, 1929-1949. (25 rolls; FHL films 1549387-411.) These list travelers to the United States from Canadian Pacific seaports only.
Border Crossing Indexes. In many cases, index cards were the only records of the crossings. These cards are indexed in the four publications below.
A Soundex is a surname index organized by the way names sound rather than how they are spelled. Names like Smith and Smyth are filed together.
Soundex Index to Canadian Border Entries through the St. Albans, Vermont, District, 1895-1924. (400 rolls; FHL films 1472801-3201.)
Soundex Index to Entries into the St. Albans, Vermont, District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports, 1924-1952. (98 rolls; FHL films 1570714-811.)
St. Albans District Manifest Records of Aliens Arriving from Foreign Contiguous Territory: Records of Arrivals through Small Ports in Vermont, 1895-1924. (six rolls; FHL films 1430987- 92.) The records are arranged first by port and then alphabetically by surname. Only from Vermont ports of entry: Alburg, Beecher Falls, Canaan, Highgate Springs, Island Pond, Norton, Richford, St. Albans, and Swanton.
Detroit District Manifest Records of Aliens Arriving from Foreign Contiguous Territory: Arrivals at Detroit, Michigan, 1906-1954. (117 rolls; FHL films 1490449-56.) Only from Michigan ports of entry: Bay City, Detroit, Port Huron, and Sault Ste. Marie.
Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1956 at www.ancestry.com which is a subscription website.