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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Manitoba Ancestors by Laura Hanowski. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Ethnic Settlement and Immigration Records
Sir Thomas Button, who discovered Hudson Bay in 1612, was the first European to spend time in what we now know as Manitoba. In 1670 the Hudson’s Bay Company was given title to Rupert’s Land, a vast area of northern and central Canada that contained waters draining into Hudson Bay. The company officials, who came from Scotland and England, had to depend on the Aboriginal people in order to survive and prosper. Many of the original fur traders married Indian women so the area soon was populated by many Métis or mixed-blood families. The records of the Hudson’s Bay Company provide researchers with many details about the people who lived in Manitoba until the Dominion of Canada government purchased Rupert’s Land in 1869.
The first permanent agricultural settlement in Manitoba was the Red River Settlement. It was established in 1812 by Lord Selkirk at the junction of the Red and the Assiniboine rivers. Problems quickly arose because the advance party was made up of men from Ireland and Scotland who did not get along. Furthermore the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company did not want an agricultural settlement in the midst of their fur trading area. From 1812 until 1820 many groups were brought into the area. Some were there to settle the uprisings that ensued. When the Hudson’s Bay Company and the North West Company amalgamated in 1821 trail systems were developed to join the various trading posts and communities. As Company employees retired, they settled in this area which became known as the Red River Colony.
After Manitoba became a province on 15 July 1870 there was a need for settlers and a railway to move people to the west. Settlement followed the development of the railway. The first people to come were people from Ontario where there was an agricultural recession. Many of these people were originally from Ireland. In 1874 the first Russian Mennonite people settled on the East Reserve located on the eastern banks of the Red River southeast of Winnipeg. In 1875 a second group of Mennonite people arrived and settled on the West Reserve, seventeen townships located on the western banks of the Red River across the river from the East Reserve.
In 1875 a large group of Icelanders settled in the Interlake region primarily near Gimli. Many of these settlers eventually moved to the United States but others settled at Baldur, Grund and Bru areas. The other large group of settlers was the Ukrainians who first settled near Gretna in 1892. Between 1895 and the late 1920s large numbers of people came to Manitoba from Ukraine. As the homestead land in the south was taken, they moved to areas in northwest Manitoba primarily near Gladstone and Dauphin. During the 1900s immigrants came from throughout the world.
- Aitken, Kenneth G. “Some Irish Servants in the Canadian West.” Generations. The Journal of the Manitoba Genealogical Society 26 (June 2001).
- Aitken, Kenneth G. “Some More Domestic Servants in the Canadian West.” Generations: The Journal of the Manitoba Genealogical Society 26 (September 2001).
- Bumstead, J.M. The People’s Clearance 1770-1815: Highland Emigration to British North America 1720-1815. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1982.
- Dyck, John, editor.Bergthal Gemeinde Buch. Steinback, Manitoba: The Hanover Steinbach Historical Society, 1993.
- Dyck, John and William Harms, editors. Reinländer Gemeinde Buch 1880- 1903. Winnipeg: The Mennonite Historical Society, 1994.
- Ham, Penny. “Routes to Family Research.” Generations: The Journal of the Manitoba Genealogical Society 8 (March 1983).
- Hancock, Elizabeth. “Western Migration of Ontario Pioneers.” Generations: The Journal of the Manitoba Genealogical Society 10 (Summer 1986).
- Jonas, Thor.Icelanders in North America: The First Settlers. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2002.
- Kavanagh, Martin. The Assiniboine Basin: with many illustrations and maps; a social study of the discovery, exploration and settlement of Manitoba. Winnipeg: Public Press, 1946.
- Kaye, Valdimir J., editor and compiler. Dictionary of Ukrainian Canadian Biography: Pioneer Settlers of Manitoba 1891-1900. Toronto: Ukrainian Canadian Research Foundation, 1975.
- Kristjanson, Wihelm. The Icelandic People in Manitoba: A Manitoba Saga. Winnipeg: Wallingford Press, 1965.
- Manitoba Library Association, compilers.Pioneers and Early Citizens of Manitoba: A Dictionary of Manitoba Biography from the earliest times to 1920. Winnipeg: Pegus Publishers, 1971.
- Morton, W.L.Manitoba: A History. 2nd edition. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967. Reprinted 1970, 1973.
- Peters, Klaas. The Bergthaler Mennonites. Translated by Margaret Loewan Reimer. Winnipeg: CMBC Publications, 1988.
- Russell, Bill. Indian Affairs Records at the National Archives of Canada: A Source for Genealogical Research. Toronto: The Ontario Genealogical Society, 1998.
- Schroeder, William. The Bergthal Colony. 2nd edition. Winnipeg: CMBC Publications, 1986.
Canadian Immigration Records
Once you have learned when your ancestor arrived in Canada you can determine which set of immigration records to check. It is easier to find your ancestor if you are aware of possible spelling variations for the surname, which family members traveled together, and whether neighbours arrived at the same time. This information is particularly useful as the passenger lists are found on microfilm and are often difficult to read.
Hudson’s Bay Company Passenger Lists
The Hudson’s Bay Company has the lists of some of the people who came to Manitoba to work for the company as well as lists of some of the early settlers to the Red River.
- Jonasson, Elizabeth. “The First of the Selkirk Settlers at Red River, 1812- 14." Generations.'The Journal of the Manitoba Genealogical Society
Pre-1865 Passenger Arrivals in Canada
No official lists of passengers were kept prior to 1865. However, individual ship lists have been found in various government and archive files. Check the following sources for some lists.
- Acton, John A., compiler. Index to Some Passengers Who Emigrated to Canada Between 1817 and 1849. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 2003.
Internet Immigration Lists
- Immigrants to Canada has emigration information of the nineteenth century.
- inGeneas has Canadian Canadian passenger and immigration information from 1748 to 1903.
Passenger Lists 1865-1919
Many of the immigrants coming to Manitoba arrived at either the port of Quebec/Montreal or Halifax. Passenger lists begin on different dates for different ports. Over the years the forms changed but all contain the names of the people on board, their age, ethnic group, place of origin and destination as well as the name of the ship, its date and port of arrival and sometimes its date and port of departure. Each change asked more questions about the passenger making them more valuable to the researcher. Examples of the questions are found on microfilms in RG 76, Finding Aid No. 76-5. These films can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.
- Quebec/Montreal - 01 May 1865 (closed during winter months)
- Halifax - 01 January 1881
- St. John, N.B. - January 1900
- North Sidney, NS - November 1906
- Vancouver - April 1905
- Victoria - April 1905
The passenger lists are available on microfilm through interlibrary loan from the Library and Archives Canada. Copies of the passenger lists are also found in the Family History Library and are available through Family Search Centers.
There is a nominal index available on 25 microfilms for the port of Quebec for the years 1865-1869. The index for Halifax, which covers the time period January 1881-February 1882, is found on microfilm C-15712. Check the finding aid Ships Passenger Lists and Border Entry Lists 1865- 1919 or the “Immigration” section on the Library and Archives Canada website for the microfilm numbers.
Passenger Lists 1919-1924
During this time frame no lists were kept; instead Form 30A, an individual form, was used. On this form there was a question asking the name of the nearest relative and their address in the country of origin and the name of the nearest relative or whom they were going to work for in Canada. The list of microfilm numbers is found on the Canadian Genealogy Centre website. The Library and Archives database provides the name, age, country of origin, date and port of arrival, the name of the ship and the microfilm number and the page where you will find the complete record. These films are available on microfilm through interlibrary loan.
Passenger Lists 1925-1935
In 1925 passenger lists were reinstated but the same questions were used. There is a nominal index to these records at the National Archives. However, only staff can look names up as the index includes passengers arriving after 1935. Contact the archives for names you wish to have checked. The list of microfilm records to 1935 is available online. There is a list of those who arrived in Halifax between 1925-1935 are on a database at the Pier 21 National Historic Site in Halifax.
Post 1935 Passenger Lists
Post 1935 passenger lists are held by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Applications for copies of information must be submitted on anAccess to Information Request Form by a Canadian citizen or an individual present in Canada.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Public Rights Administration
360 Laurier Avenue West, 10th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1
If you are unable to find your ancestors on the Canadian lists consider checking the lists for those who may have landed in American ports but immediately boarded trains for Canada. The microfilm numbers are found on The Canadian Genealogy Centre website.
- New York, N.Y. July 1905-1931
- Baltimore, M.D. July 1905-1928
- Boston, M.S. Dec. 1905-1928
- Philadelphia, P.A. July 1905-1928
- Portland, M.E Dec. 1905-1928
- Providence, R.I. July 1911-1928
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Manitoba Ancestors offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.