15 September 2008

Ancestry launches index to Canadian passenger lists: 1865-1935

Ancestry.ca has now launched online the indexed official collection of Canadian ship records - the Canadian Passenger Lists: 1865-1935. There is a launch event in Toronto on Tuesday.

This indexing has been a significant and protracted effort for Ancestry; the initiative was launched in May 2007.

Indexing was done from microfilm originally made in
the 1940s and 1950s. It's often difficult to read and sometimes the ink had already faded before the records were filmed. Unfortunately that's the only option for a source; the original records were not retained. To be realistic expect problems with the indexing. I found Slater mis-transcribed as Sister.

Despite these problems I already found new information for my family, my great uncle and his new wife returning from San Francisco to Victoria, enroute to Tisdale, Sask.

The records released contain one significant gap, some of the years between 1919 and 1924 when an individual Form 30A was used. Different ports adopted Form 30A at different times. At the moment you'll still have to use microfilm for those cases. Ancestry will eventually be digitizing those records too.

In total more than 5.6 million people from across the world
immigrated to Canada during this time period. According to Ancestry 37% of all Canadians today are direct descendants of those in this historic collection, plus many US citizens whose ancestors travelled via a Canadian port, or lived for a while Canada before moving south.


Anonymous said...

Great addition to the Canadian related information available at ancestry. A few years ago it took me a full day at a LAC microfilm reader to find information, now it is just a few clicks and there it is. Wonderful!!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone familiar with Ancestry.com and the passenger list indexing know why they started at 1905 when arrivals have occurred regularly since the 1870's. The years leading up the the Klondike gold strike are valuable. Victoria was a transfer point for the gold seekers coming up from the South Pacific and from California.

Anonymous said...

Great to have an index, at last, but I WISH that Ancestry would invest in a better search engine. Or at the very least stop continually (and perversely) encouraging me to enter more details, when that does nothing to reduce the number of IRRELEVANT returns I get from a search - lists of irrelevant names and irrelevant dates!!

Oh, and make lots of time to look among those irrelevant ones, because they WILL contain your mistranscribed tareget person's name...another example is "N.L. Sharpo" for "N.E. Sharpe"...but I guess those old typewriters that made "e"s look like "o"'s were probably common enough that you should include these alternatives among your soundex search candidates...

(Anonymous#2 - it starts at 1865..., well before the Gold Rush travel!)

Anonymous said...

You do need to check the available years indexed. Although they state they start at 1865 that date does not apply to all ports of entry. For some reason they decided to start at 1905 on the west coast for the port of Victoria/Vancouver. I know the films go way back beyond 1905 as back in the old days pre-computer and internet you could only access the passenger lists outside of Ottawa by inter-library film loan arrangements. I have read many a ships passenger list that entered the port of Victoria prior to 1905 Arlene

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see. As I understand it from LAC presonnel, they are still working to digitize some lists - perhaps these are the ones you are looking for.

Anonymous said...

I made an error in my comment on the passenger lists. After a bit of digging and an extremely helpful Archivist at Collections Canada the following are the dates when the ports were designated OFFICIAL ports of entry and were required to retain and forward passenger arrival lists to Immigration in Ottawa, prior to that there was no requirement to forward the lists.

The official designation dates vary for each port:

Quebec City and Montreal (Quebec), 1865
Halifax (Nova Scotia), 1881
Saint John (New Brunswick), 1900
North Sydney (Nova Scotia),1906
Vancouver (British Columbia), 1905
Victoria (British Columbia), 1905
via New York, 1906; and other eastern United States ports, 1905 (these lists include only the names of passengers who stated that they intended to proceed directly to Canada).

Sad to say a lot of west coast history is missing with those passenger lists unless they eventually turn up in a storage locker in the municipal holdings of the town.