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German language immigrants began arriving in Canada over 300 years ago from the region that is now Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Some German-speaking migrants emigrated from other areas such as Russia and the Austro-Hungarian regions of Bukovina and Galicia. Religious groups often settled in blocks, such as Catholics, Lutherans and Mennonites.

Even though not all immigrants shared the same culture, they all spoke the same language. However, variations in dialect did exist. Records of settlement for German-speaking people date back to 1604 when Swiss settlers were brought among the many colonists to settle Acadia.

Over 2000 Germans arrived in Nova Scotia between 1750 and 1752 when they were recruited for settlement of British holdings. In 1753 some of these settlers established the town of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. The next large migration of Germans to Canada occurred during the period after the American Revolution. German soldiers fighting for the British settled in the Maritime Provinces and along the St. Lawrence River. German loyalists also settled in the Niagara Peninsula and along the Grand River. The settlement along the Grand River became the hub of the German district of Waterloo. Germans settled in many other areas of Ontario, including the Upper Ottawa Valley.

Between 1874 and 1911, 152,000 German speaking settlers arrived in Western Canada. By the beginning of the First World War, over 100 German settlements had been established, the largest being Rosthern, Wetaskewin, St. Peter's, and St. Joseph's.

During the First World War, Germans in Canada were considered"enemy-aliens." Over 8000 German Canadians were interned in camps. During this period, German language instruction was abolished and the German press was no longer allowed to publish in German.

German immigration to Canada resumed after the end of the War. Between 1915 and 1935, over 97 000 German speaking peoples arrived in Canada from Germany, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. It was not until 1950 that Canadian restrictions on German immigration were removed. During this period Canada also took a more aggressive approach to recruit craftsmen from abroad. As a result of these changes, over 400 000 people migrated to Canada from Austria, Germany, and Switzerland between 1950 and 1970.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Balgonie, Saskatchewan: St. Joseph's (Roman Catholic) Church, 1891-1965 (MG 9 K 3-2)

This parish was established by German-speaking Catholics in 1886. This collection includes a church register and church minute books. Microfilm H-1812.

William von Moll Berczy, 1744-1813 (MG 23 HII6)

William von Moll Berczy brought settlers to Markham Township, Upper Canada, from New York in 1805. Included in this collection are a list of settlers, and contracts and agreements with settlers. Microfilm H-2298.

Cambridge, Ontario: St. Peter's (Lutheran) Church, 1834-1955 (MG 9 D 7-48)

Established in 1834, it was the first Lutheran Church in Cambridge, Ontario (then Preston, Ontario). Collection includes marriage registers, parish registers, and minute books. Microfilms M-3241 and M-3242.

Lunenburg, Nova Scotia: Dutch Reformed Congregation, 1770-1927 (MG 9 B 8-21)

Church established in ca. 1770. Collection includes a register of baptisms (1770-1926), marriages (1770-1855 and 1880-1927), and burials (1771-1854 and 1880-1927). It should be noted that all records were recorded in German until 1837. Microfilms M-2210 and M-2211.

Immigration Branch, Central Registry Files (RG 76)

  • Rosthern, Saskatchewan. German Catholic Settlement Society, 1902-1906, RG 76, volume 266, file 218250, microfilm C-7814.
  • Movements of Mennonites from South Russia, 1924-1946, RG 76, volume 196, file 79160, microfilms C-7349 and C-7350.
  • Hutterite and Mennonite colonies in the United States. Settlement in Canada, 1929-1940, RG 76, volume 359, file 425971, microfilm C-10262.
  • Hutterites and Mennonites, 1930-1940, RG 76, volumes 175 and 176, file 58764, parts 12 to 14, microfilm C-7331.
  • Association of German Canadian Catholics, Admission of 150 Refugees from Germany 1924-1926, RG 76, volume 241, file 148405, parts 1 and2, microfilm C-7390.
  • Return to Germany of Undesirable German Nationals in Canada, 1943-1959, RG 76, volume 487, file 753708, microfilm C-10421.
  • Admission of Doctors and Nurses from Refugee Camps in Germany, 1946-1950, RG 76, volume 650, file B28865, microfilm C-10589.

Other Series of Records

When the hostilities broke out between the American colonies and the British authorities in 1776, England did not have enough soldiers to fight against the rebels who wanted their independence. Thus, England made an agreement with the German principalities to hire contingents of soldiers. A total of 30,000 Germans fought in North America between 1776 and 1783. Among them, 10,000 men served in Canada and almost 2,400 settled there after the war, mainly in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. For more information, consult German Troops.

Library and Archives Canada holds other archival records relating to German Canadians and German Language churches. It should be noted that parish registers are not always complete for all years. Consult the Archives Search database using keywords such as a surname or an organization name.

Research in Other Institutions

Canadian Moravian Historical Society

Das Bundesarchiv (Federal Archives)

Lutheran Historical Institute

Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives

Research in Published Sources

Finding your German ancestors by Hans W. Rerup, 2002

The German Canadians, 1750-1937 edited by Gerhad P. Bassler, 1986.

The Germans in Canada, by K.M. McLaughlin

The Germans in Canada by Kenneth McLaughlin, 1985.

Consult our Bibliography for further information on this topic.

Search for other books on Germany and Germans in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject terms such as:

  • Germany immigration
  • German Canadians
  • German genealogy
  • Austrian Canadians genealogy
  • Swiss Canadians genealogy
  • Lutheran genealogy
  • Mennonite genealogy

Research Online

American Historical Society of Germans From Russia

Federation of East European Family History Societies: Germany Genealogy Resources

German Genealogy Links

Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe