Manitoba Emigration and Immigration
Ships’s lists prior to 1803 are rare. In 1817, the British government required captains to keep passenger lists. Those which have been found from 1817 to 1831 are located in the colonial office and are indexed. Many helpful works and published articles from periodicals can be found in the Provincial and National Archives, and in local libraries and archives. Some apply to people settled in Manitoba.
Records of the Immigration Branch of the Dominion Government, 1873–1953, are available on microfilm at the Provincial Archives. Unfortunately, most are not indexed.
These records include files on agents, passenger manifests, and records of steamship companies. There is a list of the available individual case files.
- 1 Ethnic Settlement
- 2 Canadian Immigration Records
- 3 Passenger Lists
- 4 Alternate Sources
- 5 Immigration Department Records - RG 76
- 6 Juvenile Immigration
- 7 Likachev-Ragosine-Mathers or LI-RA-MA Collection 1898-1922
- 8 Canadian Border Crossing Records
- 9 Alternate Sources to Find Immigrants to Manitoba
- 10 References
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 1(Fall 1976). Fixed
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.
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 Library and Archives Canada 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
Immigration Department Records - RG 76
At the Library and Archives Canada is an important source of information for those searching immigrant ancestors, Record Group 76. Record Group 76 contains a sample of the documents created by the Central Registry of the Immigration Branch of the Department of the Interior from 1892 to about 1952. The finding aid for the records is part of the database found on ArchivaNet under “Government of Canada Files.” If you go to the “advanced search” section and enter finding aid 76-5 you will be able to see just how extensive these records are. Those records that contain names of people have the term “lists” in the description. The records are found on 583 microfilms which are available through interlibrary loan.
Information about the children who were brought to Canada under various child immigration schemes between 1869 and the early 1930s can be found in RG-76. To find the records you want, consult Library and Archives Canada and search “Government of Canada Files” - RG -76. There is also a separate database with names of the juvenile immigrants who are often referred to as Home Children. This database is continually added to by the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa. Many of these children ended up on farms in Manitoba.
Other Internet Sources
Likachev-Ragosine-Mathers or LI-RA-MA Collection 1898-1922
Library and Archives Canada has the LI-RA-MA Collection 1898-1922 which consists of documents created by the Imperial Russian Consular offices in Canada. The collection of background questionnaires and passport applications for 11,400 Russian and East European immigrants who settled in Canada between 1898 and 1922. Many of the documents are written in Russian Cyrillic. There is a detailed description about the collection at the beginning of each index reel. The microfilms can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.
- Dan Somers. “The Likachev-Ragosine-Mathers Collection: Russian Consular Records at the National Archives of Canada.” Saskatchewan Genealogical Society Bulletin 24 (June 1993).
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 Québec 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, most are grouped under 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 information about name, port or station of entry, date, age, 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; Family History Library 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; Family History Library 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 kept of the crossings. These cards are indexed in four publications:
- Soundex Index to Canadian Border Entries through the St. Albans, Vermont, District, 1895–1924. (400 rolls; Family History Library films 1472801–3201.)
The Soundex is a surname index based on the way a name sounds rather than how it is spelled. Names like Smith and Smyth are filed together.
- Soundex Index to Entries into the St. Albans, Vermont, District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports, 1924–1952. (98 rolls; Family History Library 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. (6 rolls; Family History Library 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; Family History Library films 1490449–565.) Only from Michigan ports of entry: Bay City, Detroit, Port Huron, and Sault Ste. Marie.
Alternate Sources to Find Immigrants to Manitoba
United States Passenger Lists and Border Crossing Records
Many immigrants coming to Manitoba lived in the United States for a number of years before coming to Canada. They likely would have landed at United States ports and are part of the United States passenger lists. Microfilm copies of these lists can be borrowed through interlibrary loan from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).
The list of microfilm numbers are found on the NARA website. The Family History Library also has copies of the passenger lists.
There is a database for those arriving at New York City who passed through the immigration station at Ellis Island between 1892-1924 at the Ellis Island Foundation website.
Other immigrants coming to western Canada arrived at Canadian ports but boarded trains that travelled through the United States to Winnipeg. If they came by this route between 1895 and 1954 they would be part of the Canada/United States Border Crossing Records.
These records are referred to as the St. Albans Lists. One of the pieces of information in these records is the date and port where they arrived in Canada. Microfilm copies of these lists can be borrowed through interlibrary loan from the National Archives and Records Administration. The list of microfilm numbers are found on the NARA website. The Family History Library also has a set of the St. Albans Lists.
- Eakle, Arlene and John Cerny, editors. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1984.
- Immigrant and Passenger Arrivals: A Select Catalog of National Archives Microfilm Publications. Washington, D.C.: National Archives Trust Fund Board, U.S. General Service Administration, 1983.
- Smith, Marian L. “By Way of Canada: U.S. Records of Immigration Across the U.S.-Canadian Border 1895-1954 (St. Albans Lists.) Prologue 32 (Fall 2000). Available online at NARA website.
- Szucs, Loretto Dennis and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking, editors. The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy. Salt Lake City: Ancestry Publishing, 1996.
The Direct and Indirect Hamburg Passenger Lists
Before 1900 ships from the port of Hamburg did not come directly to Canada but went to United States ports. Because ships did not leave every day many immigrants would take small vessels from Hamburg to ports on the east coast of England and then travel by train to Liverpool where they boarded ships going to Canada. These people are listed on the Indirect Passenger Lists. The lists of those people who traveled to North America via Hamburg are written in German but are most valuable because they list the village and country of origin. There are indexes to the records which are arranged chronologically by the letter of the alphabet. Copies of the indexes and records are found on microfilm at the Family History Library. Check the research guide available online for more details.
The Hamburg Museum
The Hamburg Museum has a passenger list database that can be checked for free, but there is a fee for detailed information. The database expects to have an index that covers 1890-1914. The records for the direct and indirect lists are available from 1890 to the end of 1906, but are being updated regularly. The site is in German but you can find the English pages if you click on the Union Jack at the top of the page or the line “Link to Your Roots” on the left hand side of the page.
- Hanowski, Laura. "Manitoba Ethnic Settlement and Immigration Records (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Manitoba_Ethnic_Settlement_and_Immigration_Records_%28National_Institute%29.
- Hanowski, Laura. "Manitoba Immigration and Naturalization Records (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Manitoba_Immigration_and_Naturalization_Records_%28National_Institute%29.
- Hanowski, Laura. "Manitoba Alternate Immigration Records (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Manitoba_Alternate_Immigration_Records_%28National_Institute%29.