An Overview of

Ship's Passenger Lists and Indexes


Canadian records for Genealogists


Family Historians


Please note that this Overview was current in the mid-to-late 1990s, when it was first prepared. It is quite old and outdated now! Still, you might find something of interest....

This is very basic introduction to some of the Canadian ship passenger resources that were available to genealogists, family and social historians, and geographers,  whether interested in their ancestor's record, or in studying broader patterns of migration. It has a Canadian focus, but people from elsewhere in North America may find it useful.

Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

Table of Contents

Indexes to Lists of Passengers and Immigrants for All of North America:

Many, many Books and Lists have been published which record the names of whole groups of immigrants from one area, or which contain information about all of the passengers arriving in North America aboard one ship.

Searching each and every work would normally consume a lifetime, but our work has been greatly simplified through the efforts of P.W.Filby and M.K.Meyer, who have created a 'master index' of as many of these individually published indexes as has been possible.

I have a full set of their work - - - -

  • Passenger and Immigration Lists Index - A guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. First Edition, Published 1981; Filby.P.W. and M.K.Meyer, Editors,
    • Volume 1:- A through F
    • Volume 2:- F through N
    • Volume 3:- N through Z

      as well as the annual volumes that list almost 2 million more people

      • 1982 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1983 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1984 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1985 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1986 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1987 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1988 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1989 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1990 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1991 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1992 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1993 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1994 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1995 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1996 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1997 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1998 Supplement:- A through Z
      • 1999 Supplement:- A through Z

- - - - and I'm willing to look for your ancestor in these volumes.

Whenever we find a name you're searching for in these volumes we also find a reference to the specific book or index where that name was originally noted.

These first instance works are far too numerous to list individually, but once it has been determined that a name you are looking for appears in Filby and Meyer's work, I am able to go back to most of the first instance works to obtain more detailed information for you.

And microfilm copies of the original Ship's Manifest exist in many cases, and paper copies of appropriate parts of these Manifests can be obtained.

Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

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Canadian Ship's Passenger Lists before 1865:

No comprehensive lists of immigrants arriving in Canada prior to 1865 have survived. A few scattered lists do exist, though, most of which are held at the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.

Researchers are advised to consult the more expansive Lists and Indexes for all of North America which will include whatever Canadian port of entry lists have been published for this time period.

Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

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Canadian Ship's Passenger Lists between 1865 and 1919:

 The National Archives of Canada holds microfilm copies of the Passenger Manifests, or Lists, of ships that arrived at the following ports of entry, within the time periods noted:

  • Quebec City, 1865-1919
  • Halifax, N.S., 1881-1919
  • Saint John, N.B., 1900-1918
  • North Sydney, N.S., 1906-1919
  • Vancouver, B.C., 1905-1919
  • Victoria, B.C., 1905-1919
    • (includes other small Pacific Coast ports)
  • via United States ports, 1905-1921
    • (includes only the names of passengers proceeding directly to Canada)

These Manifests contain variable genealogical information such as name, age, occupation and intended destination of passengers, depending on the date of arrival and such things as the Shipping Line, etc.

The lists are arranged by port and date of arrival and in order to undertake a meaningful search, it is useful to know the approximate time of arrival. Assumptions about the Port of Departure in Europe, or the Port of Arrival in Canada can be made, but knowing the name of the ship, the Port and date of arrival in Canada, and the Departure Port in England are extremely helpful in narrowing a search pattern.

Passengers from mainland Europe often disembarked coastal ships, and subsequently boarded transatlantic ships, at ports in Great Britain. Liverpool, on the west coast of England, was the most common port of departure for many Nordic, north German and Russian emmigrants.

Within this time period Passenger Lists constitute the only official record of immigration into Canada.

A set of old card indexes exist on microfilm, having been compiled from those lists of passengers arriving at Quebec in the 1865 to 1869 time period that have survived. Each Index card provides the passenger's name, sometimes his or her age, the name of the ship, and the date of that ship's arrival at Quebec. Alphabetically ordered on the Surname of the persons on board the ships that arrived at Quebec, Indexes exist for each of 1865, 1866, 1867, 1868, and 1869. Spelling variations of surnames must be considered when this Index is consulted, and the microfilm copies of the original Manifests must be consulted for more complete information. Otherwise no other Lists have been indexed.

A great many emmigrants arrived at one of the ports in Canada, only to travel through this country, bound for places in the United States. It's possible that, if your ancestor came originally from Ireland, the UK, one of the Nordic countries, from the Baltic area - such as northern German areas, or Russia, that they may have landed in Canada before proceeding to the US.

As well, it's been suggested that many of the ships that regularly travelled between the UK and Quebec during the summer months, travelled from the UK to other ice free ports on the east coast of the US, such as Portland, Maine, during the winter months. You would be well advised to check Passenger Lists for ships arriving at these ports as well as the more common Canadian ports.

Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

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Canadian Passenger and Immigration Information after 1919:

'Home Children', 1869 - 1928:

Between 1869 and 1928, almost 90,000 children were brought to Canada from Great Britain during the child emigration movement.

These were the 'Home Children'. It was considered that 'pauper children' would have a better chance for a healthy, moral life in rural Canada, away from the urban slums of the larger industrial cities in England, and many families throughout Canada welcomed them as a source of cheap farm labour and domestic help.

Groups of children arriving at official Canadian ports are individually listed, and often identified as 'Home Children', in Canadian Passenger Lists until 1919.

More detailed information for this time period, and for the 1919 - 1928 period, can be found in the correspondence between the various juvenile homes and agencies in England. See below for information about possibly accessing information in relevant files of the Canadian Immigration Branch.


Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

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Immigrants from China, 1885 - 1949:

Information about immigrants to Canada from China during the 1885 - 1949 period is held in the National Archives. Usually such genealogical information as the immigrant's age, place of birth, occupation, date and port of arrival in Canada, head tax paid, etc., can be obtained. Once this information is obtained, and particularly where an individual immigrated after January, 1919, files that will contain more comprehensive data can often be located in Immigration Canada records - see below.

Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

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US Border Entry Records, 1908 - 1918:

Prior to 1908, people were able to move freely in either direction across the international boundary between the United States and Canada. No record exists of these border crossings.

Beginning in March 1908, through to December 1918, lists of immigrants arriving in Canada from the United States after crossing land borders, as well as those entering through certain local lake and sea ports, were compiled. These lists are held at the National Archives of Canada, and are arranged by port and date of arrival. They are not indexed. In order to undertake a meaningful search, it is usually beneficial to know the approximate time of arrival, as well as the probable location of the border crossing or the port of arrival.

The Government has been quick to state that, during this time period, "not all immigrants crossed the border at official ports. Also, if the border office was closed, they may have entered the country without being registered" i.e. illegally.


Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

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All Immigrants to Canada, after 1919:

From January 1919 onwards, with a few minor exceptions, records of all Immigrants arriving at Canadian land and sea ports remain in the custody of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and access is strictly controlled.

A fee is levied by Citizenship and Immigration Canada to anyone wishing to potentially obtain information from their files about any particular immigrant in this time period. Under certain conditions I am able to act as an expediter in requests of this type.


Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

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Supplementary Information:

 The passage from (primarily) Europe to North America would have occupied only a short amount of time in the lifespan of an immigrant, but the passage was nonetheless a pivotal event, and was/is often a defining event in the histories of many families.

There are many print resources that might be of interest to genealogists that do not deal specifically with Lists of Passengers. Additional information about the ship on which an ancestor travelled can supplement a write-up. Maps tracing the routes the ships normally travelled can add strong visual links to 'the old country'. And sometimes accounts of the passages, as experienced by others, can prove enlightening.

Listing all of the resources available in this regard is an impossible task, but I have access to many published works, most of which pertain to North Atlantic traffic in the 1820 - 1950 time period. I'm more than willing to see what's available that relates to your own ancestor's trans-Atlantic passage.

Contact Bruce D. Murduck   concerning any matter at all.

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