Canada's most recent census returns list the Irish as the fourth largest ethnic group in Canada with almost four and a half million Canadians claiming either some or full Irish lineage. Indeed, this bond between Canada and Ireland has been in existence for centuries.
The first known Irish-born immigrant to Canada was Tec Cornelius Aubrenon, who arrived in New France in 1661 and remained until his death in 1687. However the Irish presence in Canada can be dated even earlier than the arrival of Aubrenon. As early as the middle of the 16th century, Irish fishermen from the south of Ireland frequently traveled to Newfoundland for part of their catch.
By far, the largest immigration of the Irish to Canada occurred during the mid nineteenth century. The Great Irish Potato Famine of 1847 was the cause of death, mainly from starvation, of over a million Irish. It was also the motivation behind the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of Irish to North America. Because passage to Canada was less expensive than passage to the United States, Canada was the recipient of some of the most destitute and bereft Irish.
Passage was difficult for those making the three thousand mile voyage from Ireland. Crammed into steerage for over six weeks, these "Coffin Ships" were a breeding ground for many diseases. The primary destination for most of these ships was the port of Québec and the mandatory stop at the quarantine island of Grosse Ile. By June of 1847, the port of Québec became so overwhelmed, that dozens of ships carrying over 14,000 Irish queued for days to make landing. It is estimated that almost 5,000 Irish died on Grosse Ile and it is known to be the largest Irish burial ground exclusive of Ireland. Many Irish immigrants played a major role in Canadian society. Perhaps one of Canada's more famous immigrants from Ireland was Canadian Parliamentarian Thomas D'Arcy McGee. [www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=4583&&PHPSESSID=12ggrtfctvk244rd867hmklii5]
Apart from the annual St. Patrick's Day parade hosted by numerous cities, towns and communities across Canada, the proud presence of the Irish in Canada today is also manifest in the myriad of Irish societies and associations spread across the nation. There are also several Canadian associations for Irish studies as well as university programs and courses devoted to this the same theme.
Research at Library and Archives Canada
Names of Irish immigrants can be found in different series of records, mainly passenger lists. For the years before 1865, we suggest that you consult first the following online resources.
Immigrants at Grosse Ile
This database includes information on 33,026 immigrants whose names appear in surviving records of the Grosse-Île Quarantine Station between 1832 and 1937. Names were extracted from different kind of documents.
Immigrants to Canada
Library and Archives Canada holds a number of lists that have been identified and indexed by name in a database, formerly known as our Miscellaneous Immigration Index. Many of the records relate to immigrants from the British Isles to Quebec and Ontario, but there are also references to settlers in other provinces. The database also includes other types of records such as lists of the Irish settlers brought to the Peterborough area of Ontario in the early 1820s, the declarations of aliens for Lower Canada and names of some Irish orphans.
Montreal Emigrant Society Passage Book
Upon their arrival, many poor immigrants had to rely on benevolent societies for assistance when they arrived in North America. The Montreal Emigrant Society was established in 1831. Its main purpose was to provide transportation for immigrants who had arrived at Montreal from Quebec and were destined for settlement in different parts of Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario). Library and Archives Canada holds one register of names of immigrants for the year 1832 from the Montreal Emigrant Society (RG 7 G18). The passage book has been digitized and is available online. The use of this digitized database is facilitated by a name index.
The names of Irish immigrants coming to Canada after 1865 can be found in immigrations records. Consult Passenger Lists, 1865-1935.
Other series of documents
Library and Archives Canada also holds some private fonds regarding Irish families such as:
Research in Other Institutions
Genealogical Society of Ireland
General Register Office (Belfast) of Northern Ireland
Genereal Register Office (Dublin)
Ireland's Historical Mapping Archive
National Archives of Ireland
Land Registry & Registry of Deeds
[www.mcmaster.ca/] The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections holds the Thomas D'Arcy McGee collection (1858-1925)
National Archives of Ireland
National Library of Ireland
Ordnance Survey of Ireland
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
Research in Published Sources
Finding your Irish Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide by David S. Ouimette, 2006.
The Irish in Canada, by David A. Wilson
Tracing Your Irish Ancestors by John Grenham, 2006.
Tracing Irish Ancestors, A Practical Guide To Irish Genealogy by Marie MacGonghail and Paul Gorry, 1997.
Consult our Bibliography for further information on this topic.
Search for books on Irish in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject terms such as:
Church of Ireland
Find my past.ie
In the Wake of Dark Passage, Irish Famine Migration to New Brunswick
Irish Ancestral Research Association
Irish Family History Foundation - Online Genealogy Databases for Ireland
North of Ireland Family History Society
Use AVITUS to find other websites about Irish in Canada.