Champlain Canal

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United States  >  Migration  >  Canals  >  Champlain Canal

In 1823 the 60-mile (97 km) Champlain Canal in New York State allowed boats from New York City on the Hudson River and from rural upstate New York on the Erie Canal to reach Lake Champlain. In 1843 Lake Champlain was also connected to the Saint Lawrence River and the North Atlantic Ocean by the Chambly Canal in Canada. As canals developed in America settlers were attracted to nearby communities because the canals provided access to markets. They could sell their products at distant markets, and buy products made far away. If an ancestor settled near a canal, you may be able to trace back to a place of origin on a connecting waterway.

Historical Background

The construction of the Champlain Canal began in 1817 and was worked on at the same time as the Erie Canal and joined to it. In 1819 the Fort Edward to Lake Champlain section was opened. The whole Champlain Canal was finished in 1823. Many of the workers who helped build the canal were Irish immigrants.

The Champlain Canal connection with the Erie canal made it a natural route for residents of Vermont and New York near Lake Champlain to use to move south and west via the Eire Canal.

Canal Route

The Erie Canal connects the the Hudson River (and New York City) with Lake Erie. It follows the Mohawk River Valley west from Albany, New York to reach toward Buffalo, New York. Some of the communities on the Erie Canal from east to west include:
Map of New York's Erie Canal. To enlarge: click the map slowly three times.
  • Albany
  • Troy
  • Schenectady
  • Fonda
  • Herkimer
  • Utica
  • Rome
  • Syracuse
  • Lyons
  • Palmyra
  • Rochester
  • Albion
  • Lockport
  • Buffalo

Settlers and Records

Because so many immigrants traveled on the canal, many genealogists would like to find copies of canal passenger lists. Unfortunately, apart from the years 1827-1829, canal boat operators were not required to record or report passenger names to the New York State government. Those 1827-1829 passenger lists survive today in the New York State Archives.[1]

Prior to the building of the Erie Canal the settlers in upstate New York were often from New England, especially Vermont. Once the Canal was finished, setters along the canal and farther west into Ohio would have reached the Erie Canal from New York City, or from along the Hudson River in New York, or from Vermont via the Champlain Canal. Most of the men who labored to build the Erie Canal were from Ireland and many of them settled near it.

Internet Links

Digitized book:


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Erie Canal" in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 24 June 2009).

United States Migration Internal