Finding an Irish Ancestor Using Canadian Records

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Notes on Immigration

The Irish emigration to Canada began as early as the late 17th Century but did not truly take root until 18th Century. By the turn of the 19th Century immediately following the Napoleonic Wars, immigration recommenced in earnest. Once the wars had ended in 1805, the governemnt restricted immigration from the United States and encouraged immigration from the British Isles and Ireland.  The most significant ports for North America included Grosse Ilse, City of Quebec, Montreal in the Province of Quebec, St. John's, New Brunswick, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. From 1894, steamship and railroads advertized to potential immigrants to sail into Canadian ports, and then gain passage through U.S. ports of entries into the United States. Thus the St Albans, Vermont ship lists become a valuable record source for tracing many immigrants to the United States but who came through Canadian ports of entry to arrive here. 

Ports of embarkation and ports of call of Irish emigrants' included the Belfast, Waterford, Cork, Dublin, Liverpool, Southampton, Bristol, and London--time period depending.

Due to the English Crown government's austere laws, i.e. Penal Act of 1695, which drove many native Irishmen from their lands, and out onto the streets or countryside, caused many Irish families to emigrant. Catholic and Protestant families appear in Catholic and Protestant records throughout the United States. Irish emigrant names appear in many types of genealogical records. United States records which researchers should first seek in order to learn the specific place of birth or their Irish origins, the following records are of most use and value:

vital records - standard format of statutory certificates require parents’ names, specific place and date of birth;

church - sometimes provide Irish place-name or parent names information

obituaries - may provide clarifying place-name of Irish origins, birth information

passenger lists - occasionally provide specific Ireland place-name

tombstones - may provide clarifying information on specific Ireland place of birth

naturalization - may provide at least the Ireland county name of origin

Other "indexed" original records may include:

census - in occasional instances may provide more than just "Ireland" as birthplace

local (county & township) histories - sometimes provide birth information on emigrants

military - usually provide outstanding evidence of birthplace and sometimes parentage

deeds - in North Carolina, Maine and a few other regions may provide place of origin data

newspaper articles - may give personal accounts of tragedy, and more about immigrant ancestors

funeral home records, where available

biographies - especially documented, may provide parentage and birthplace information

merchant marine - give birthplace data

Social Security Death Index – Form SS-5—“Social Security Number Record Third Party Request for Photocopy” - birth

For a most in-depth study on United States records which researchers should first seek in order to learn the specific place of birth or their Irish origins, see also the United States Wiki for the state in which your Irish immgrant came to settle. Also, see an article entitled, "A Checklist of Compiled Sources & Where to Find Them" which also provides numerous online and other resources holding vast numbers of family names with compiled information about them.

How to Use This Page

The following records listed below may more quickly assist researchers in finding more about their Irish immigrant ancestors in Canada (see links). The "Canada" Wiki and these sources listed here should be useful and helpful guides in research.

Military Records

For more indepth information on British Military for Ireland, try our wiki under England Military Records

For more indepth information on Canadian Military records, try our wiki under Canada Military Records

A few Irish emigrants came to Canada and later enlisted and joined the Army or Navy. Some Irishmen who served in the British Military establishment, left Great Britain to emigrate and some ended up serving in Canada's army. Usually many of them were Protestant because from early years, the British military would not allow Roman Catholic Irish to fill its ranks.


Late 1600's: some Ulster-Scots emigration into some east Canada settlements

1760: A few thousand Ulster (Protestant) Irish settled lands vacated by Acadians in Nova Scotia.

1815: After the close of the Napoleonic wars in Europe, many immigrants settled along the St. Lawrence River. Although many immigrants were "late Loyalists" with many English settlers.

1815–1850:Greatest immigration was from Scotland and Ireland to Atlantic colonies. A few thousand came each year. After the year 1818, an influx of Protestant Irish began in Upper Canada.

1830s: The great Irish immigration took place, especially to New Brunswick.

1846–1850s: During the Famine Migration from Ireland, tens of thousands settled farms and towns of Upper and Lower Canada. The affect of the Irish immigration into Canada's population was enormous. At the height of the Great Famine years--1847 and 1848, the sickness, disease and poverty had a dramatic affect on Canada's port towns and city populations.

Records at the National Archives Canada

Records of the Military include: pensions, commissioned and non-commissioned officers' service records, prisoner lists, hospital records, army lists, officers' lists, medal awards, courts martial, muster books and paylists, etc.