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Immigrant and Emigration References (2)

My intent is to post at least two items each month. The first few items or articles will summarize the research material I’m collecting online to support future writing projects. Today, I want to introduce you to an outstanding resource called canadiana.ca. The site is packed with books, journals, newspaper, government texts of all kinds, and letters from settlers to their families in the “Old Country” wherever that might have been. The returns using search terms like “Irish immigrants” “Irish immigration (or emigration)” “Irish in Nova Scotia” are enormous, in one case reaching 1978 pages with ten items per page. Not all are useful, as one might guess. But, if the search engine prioritizes the most significant texts, then it should be easy to pick out several useful resources. I vary my note taking between MS Word and a fountain pen (really!). In this case, I stopped writing when I reached eight looseleaf pages.

The earlies sources are from 1820 “America and the British Colonies: an Abstract of all the Most Useful Information” by William Kingdom, published in London. A second text was published in 1822 in Dublin, called “The Emigrants’ Guide to the Canadas” by William Watson. Twenty years later, Thomas Rolph published in London “Comparative Advantages Between the United States and Canada, for British Settlers.” There are many useful Guides – I intend to examine each one based on a timeline from earliest to latest and note the changes, perhaps culminating in a study of immigration to Canada by William George Smith, published in Toronto in 1920 and titled “A Study in Canadian Immigration.”

Canadiana.ca contains pre-Confederation documents by the various British government commissions established to monitor out-migration from Great Britain. Some of the documents I have skimmed provide information about ports of departure, number of registered emigrants, sickness and death reports, length of the crossing and port of arrival. If you are a family researcher you will already know that passenger lists were scanty during the nineteenth century. Yet, the statistical information will be useful to provide context to your research.

I used a basic key word search for this project. Canadiana also allows for a boolean search for those of you who have more experience with that feature. You can limit search results with a date range, a language feature (English preferred? but also French, Spanish, Russian, among others), and the ability to select newspapers, journals, letters, or monographs, for example.

May you have success in your research. Don’t forget to share new information about your discoveries with family and friends! This is genealogy, family history, social history, contextual history …


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