US Immigration Canadian Border Crossings
- 1 Background
- 2 The records
- 3 Suggestions for Searching
- 4 Tips
- Were immigrating into the United States.
- Were visiting the country.
- Were United States citizens returning to the United States.
The border crossings records from Canada to the United States began in 1895. They include people coming in ships and trains through Canada to the United States either for a visit or to stay. People who crossed the border in any other way, such as by horse or car, are not in the records.
Lists of passengers crossing the Canadian border to the United States were collected into this record: Manifests of Passengers Arriving in the St. Albans, Vermont District. In spite of the title, this collection includes records from all over Canada and the northern United States (not just St. Albans). These are the records of U.S. immigration officials who inspected travelers at the following places:
- From 1895 to 1914, at all Canadian seaports and train arrival stations from Washington state to Maine (including major interior cities such as Quebec, Winnipeg, etc.). Officials used shipping company passenger lists (manifests) to determine passengers bound for the United States via Canada.
- From 1915 to 1954, border crossing records were only kept at train arrival stations along the northern borders of New York and Vermont.
The information you find varies from record to record. These records may include:
- Port or station of entry.
- Date of entry.
- Last residence.
- Name of nearest relative at last residence.
- Previous visits to United States.
- Place of birth.
In many cases, the index cards are the only record of the crossing.
- Ancestry.com has indexes with image links to the index cards. A study was not done at this time to determine if all four sets of indexes are included in this collection.
- The Family History Library has on microfilm all four sets of indexes of the records:
- Soundex Index to Canadian Border Entries through the St. Albans, Vermont District, 1895-1924. (400 rolls; FHL films 1472801-3201.) The Soundex is a coded surname index based on the way a name sounds rather than how it is spelled. Names like Smith and Smyth have the same code and are filed together.
- Soundex Index to Entries into the St. Albans, Vermont District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports, 1924-1952. (98 rolls; FHL films 1570714- 811)
- Alphabetical Index to Canadian Border Entries through Small Ports in Vermont, 1895-1924. (6 rolls; 1430987- 92) Arranged first by entry station, and then alphabetically by surname. From Vermont ports of entry only: Alburg, Beecher Falls, Canaan, Highgate Springs, Island Pond, Norton, Richford, St. Albans, and Swanton.
- Card Manifests (Alphabetical) of Individuals Entering through the Port of Detroit, Michigan, 1906-1954. (117 rolls; FHL films 1490449-565) Michigan ports of entry only: Bay City, Detroit, Port Huron, and Sault Sainte Marie.
Border Crossing Records
The records are in two series, as shown below:
- Manifests of Passengers Arriving in the St. Albans, Vermont District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports, 1895-1954. (608 rolls; FHL films 1561087-499.) There are two indexes, 1895-1914 and 1915-1954.
- Manifests of Passengers Arriving in the St. Albans, Vermont District through Canadian Pacific Ports, 1929-1949. (25 rolls; FHL films 1549387-411.) In transit to the United States from Canadian Pacific seaports only.
Manifests for Pacific and Atlantic ports provide two types of lists: the traditional passenger lists on U.S. immigration forms and monthly lists of names of aliens crossing the border on trains. These monthly lists are arranged by month, then alphabetically by name of port, and then by railway.
Suggestions for Searching
Search the index
If that fails:
- Look through the microfilmed Soundex index for the code that includes your ancestor's last name.
- Search through that Soundex code for your ancestor's first name.
- Write down everything the index gives about your ancestor, including the day, month, and year when your ancestor entered the United States, the Serial number, which would have volume, group, and list numbers (usually the numbers in the upper right corner).
Interpretation of the serial number, such as 761-33-10 from the index:
- 761 is the volume number
- 33 is the group number or the page number (usually)
- 10 is the list number or line number on the page
If you do not find your ancestor in the index, see Tip 1.
Find the actual record
The index cards give so much information, it can be tempting not to look at the actual records. It is highly recommended that you take the extra step, as they include everyone coming at that time. Relatives and friends may be traveling with your ancestor and information given about those people may be very important to the research on your ancestor.
Ship passenger lists are arranged:
- 1st by date (year, month, day).
- 2nd by name of ship (usually ships are NOT in alphabetical order).
- 3rd by list of passengers.
Train passenger lists are arranged monthly:
- 1st by year and month.
- 2nd alphabetically by name of the port of entry into the United States.
- 3rd by name of railway.
- 4th by list of passengers.
Create an image or photocopy
Make a photocopy of the page(s) with the information about your ancestor. By copying the entire page(s), you can study the record in depth and save it for future reference. You can analyze the handwriting and note other details you may have missed when you first looked at the record. You may find other relatives of your ancestor.
Document so you could find it again
Be sure to document the source of the information by writing the title, author, book or film number, and page number on the copy, or photocopy the title page at the front of the book or film. Also write the name of the library, archive, etc., where you found the passenger lists.
Study the document
Compare the information to what you already knew about your ancestor.
What does it tell you about your ancestor and about the people who were with him or her?
Does the record give clues about your ancestor which could guide you to other records?
Watch for dates, locations, relationships, etc.
Tip 1: Try various spellings
Your ancestor's name may have been misspelled in the border crossing record or the index. Try variations of the way the last name was spelled. For suggestions, see Name Variations. Then look in the index using the spelling variations of your ancestor's name.
Tip 2: Check the records for that day
Your ancestor's name may have been left out of the index. If you know the date he or she came into the United States, you should check the border crossing records for that day.
The following records may give you the day, month, and year your ancestor came into the United States:
- Written family histories
- Family traditions
- Obituary of the immigrant.
Tip 3: Try one of the smaller collections
Try one of the following smaller collections of border crossing lists, if applicable to your ancestor:
- Vermont ports of entry from 1895-1924
- Alphabetical Index to Canadian Border Entries Through Small Ports in Vermont, 1895-1924
- Michigan ports of entry from 1906-1954
- Card Manifests (Alphabetical) of Individuals Entering Through the Port of Detroit, Michigan, 1906-1954
Tip 4: Additional strategies
If you cannot find the immigrant in the border crossing records,
- Search the records for spelling variations for the name. Your ancestor's name may have been misspelled or mis-indexed. For suggestions, see Name Variations.
- Look for people who came with your ancestor, such as relatives or friends.
- Read newspapers around the expected date, both in Canada and the place your ancestor went in the United States. The "social columns," especially of rural areas, may mention who is new or visiting in the area.