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 connected Lake Champlain to the Hudson River and thus New York City, as well as to the Erie Canal and rural upstate New York. In 1843 Lake Champlain was also connected by the Chambly Canal in Canada to the Saint Lawrence River and thence to the North Atlantic Ocean. 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 was joined to it. In 1819 the Fort Edward to Lake Champlain section was opened. The whole Champlain Canal linked to the Erie Canal at Waterford, New York and was finished in 1823.[1] Many of the workers who helped build the Champlain and Erie canals 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. The Champlain Canal is part of the New York State Canal System, now mostly used for recreation.

Canal Route

The Champlain Canal connects the the Hudson River (and New York City) and the Erie Canal (and Buffalo) with Lake Champlain. It follows the Hudson River Valley north from Troy, New York to reach toward Whitehall, New York on Lake Champlain. Some of the communities on the Champlain Canal from north to south include:
Map of New York's Erie Canal. To enlarge: click the map slowly three times.
  • Whitehall
  • Fort Ann
  • Fort Edward 
  • Northumberland
  • Waterford
  • Troy

Settlers and Records

Because so many immigrants traveled on canals, 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.[2]

Prior to the building of the Champlain and Erie canals the settlers in upstate New York were often from New England, especially Vermont. Once the canals were finished, setters could also move farther west into Ohio. Most of the men who labored to build the Champlain Canal were from Ireland and many of them settled near it.

Internet Links


  1. Wikipedia contributors, "Champlain Canal" in Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia at (accessed July 18, 2009).
  2. Wikipedia contributors, "Erie Canal" in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia at (accessed 24 June 2009).

United States Migration Internal