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In this section
The General Registers (the head tax records) can now be searched online, using either the name of the individual, year of arrival, or certificate number.
In 1885, the Canadian government passed the first of a series of laws requiring most Chinese immigrants to pay an entry fee, or "head tax". To learn more about this legislation, see Racism in Law and Society in "The History" section of this website.
To administer this new law, the government started keeping detailed records of all immigrants from China. Information about head tax payment, date and place of birth, height and distinguishing characteristics, port of arrival, and intended destination in Canada, was handwritten into large ledger books called the General Registers of Chinese Immigration. The General Registers are stored under the care of Library and Archives Canada. They contain information about more than 95,000 people who arrived in Canada between 1885 and 1949.
Essay: Finding Ourselves in History
In this essay, Dr. Henry Yu of the University of British Columbia's Department of History, puts a personal face to the General Registers of Chinese Immigration. Dr. Yu's grandfather was a head tax payer whose arrival in Canada is recorded in the General Registers. In this excerpt from the book Finding Memories, Tracing Routes: Chinese Canadian Family Stories, Dr. Yu explores the relationship between family stories and the history revealed in official government documents.
Read memories from people who have looked for the names of their own family members in the online General Registers, found on this website.
If you have a family member whose name might have been recorded in the General Registers, tell us about them, using the Comments box to the left. What was the person's name? When did they arrive in Canada? Where did they settle? What kind of work did they do? What are your thoughts about their experiences?
Please note that some comments will be chosen for posting on this website, and become the property of Library and Archives Canada. Comments may be edited, and will be translated into French.