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Records on the Immigration of Domestics

Photo of the women's dormitory, Immigration Building, Saint John, New Brunswick, circa 1920-1930

This guide consists of general and specific references to government sources as well as a selected bibliography relating to the immigration of non-agricultural domestic servants to Canada after Confederation. The records consist largely of female domestic servants, including au pair child care workers. Not included are agricultural domestics (hired farm workers) and servants attached to foreign diplomatic missions in Canada. Records on these groups are available separately.

The main two record groups covered are RG 26 (records of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration) and RG 76 (Immigration).

Aside from the files listed here, researchers may also find relevant material in subject files on such topics as: child (juvenile) immigration; schemes arranged by specific immigration societies; irregularities, illegal entry and status adjustment (for the post-Second World War era); occupational counseling and employment market surveys; and the immigration of specific ethnic/national groups (especially British and Irish immigration in the pre-Second World War period, and Caribbean/West Indian immigration from 1930 onwards). Consult the inventories and finding aids for RGs 26 and 76 for further guidance.

Local archives will also contain relevant records. For example, the Archives of Ontario in Toronto holds records on the immigration of domestic servants to Ontario in the 1870s and 1880s. Similar information may exist in other Provincial Archives holdings. The local archives of particular religious denominations, philanthropic societies and women's organizations may also be useful.

This guide was revised in September 2000.

1. Archival References

Government Records

Records of the Immigration Branch (RG 76)

These are records of the federal offices responsible for immigration between 1892 and the present. (For records before 1892, see Department of Agriculture records, RG 17 series A.)

United British Women's Emigration Association (lists), 1890-1906
(RG 76, vol. 45, file 1378, pts. 1 and 2, reel C-4707)
British Immigration Aid Society, 1921-1959
(RG 76, vol. 102, file 16120, pts. 1-10, reel C-4765 and C-4766)
Formed for the purpose of helping to supply in Canada the demand for certain claims of British Labour (lists).
Domestic servants, 1891-1921
(RG 76, vols. 113-115, file 22787, pts. 1-12, reel C-4776 to C-4778)
Canadian Council of Immigration of Women for Household Service, 1922-1951
(RG 76, vols. 115 and 116, file 22787, pts. 13-20, reel C-4778 and C-4779)
Women's Emigration Branch, 1920-1922
(RG 76, vol. 116, file 22787 Staff, reel C-4780)
Reports of special parties; reports of domestics, 1919-1926
(RG 76, vols. 117-118, file 22787, pts. 1-10, reels C-4780 and C-4781)
Mrs. Helen Sanford, bonus on domestics, Girls Home of Welcome, 1898-1907
(RG 76, vols. 118 and 119, file 22787, pts. 1-5, reels C-4781 and C-4782)
Agricultural and Domestic Servant Classes; declaration regarding Occupation in Canada, 1921-1940
(RG 76, vols. 123 and 124, file 25323, pts. 1-5, reels C-4786 and C-4787)
Girls Home of Welcome, Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canadian Women's Hostel), 1897-1936
(RG 76, vols. 138 and 139, file 33136, pts. 1-8, reels C-15865 and C-15866)
C.O. Swanson, Waterville, Quebec; immigration of domestic servants from Scandinavia (lists), 1905-1910
(RG 76, vol. 167, file 49149, reel C-7324)
Empire Settlement: Domestic Scheme, 1923-1951
(RG 76, vols. 217 and 218, file 94169, pts. 1-7, reels C-7368 and C-7369)
Scheme for the migration of female household workers to Canada from the United Kingdom (lists).
Colonel J.S. Dennis, CPR, Montreal, Quebec; selection of domestics to Canada under Empire Settlement Plan (lists), 1924-1937
(RG 76, vol. 230, file 127825, pts. 1 and 2, reel C-7380)
Employment Service of Canada; placing of domestics, 1932-1936, 1939 and 1946
(RG 76, vol. 247, file 169498, reel C-7395)
The Women's British Immigration League of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon (lists), 1926-1930
(RG 76, vol. 284, file 250923, reel C-7833)
Mrs. E.W. Francis, Women's Domestic Guild of Canada, Montreal, Quebec (lists), 1903-1922
(RG 76, vols. 291 and 292, file 266957, pts. 1-10, reels C-7840 to C-7841)
Cabled advice on arrival of continental domestics (lists), 1927-1928
(RG 76, vol. 301, file 280700, pts. 1 and 2, reels C-7850 and C-7851)
Women's Welcome Hostel, Toronto, Ontario (Canadian Women's Hostel), 1905-1928 and 1934-1936
(RG 76, vols. 338 and 339, file 356358, pts. 1-14, reels C-10247 to C-10249)
Hostel, London, England; training of domestics (Empire Settlement Act), 1928-1931
(RG 76, vols. 340 and 341, file 359252, pts. 1-4, reels C-10249 and C-10250)
Alberta government agreement with Overseas Settlement Board for training of 200 British women (Empire Settlement Act) (lists), 1928-1931
(RG 76, vol. 347, file 374943, reel C-10254)
Benjamin Pipe, Wapella, Assiniboine, proposes bringing out from England girls as domestic servants, 1905-1911
(RG 76, vol. 347, file 375086, reel C-10254)
Pamphlets (Canada) - The Opportunities Offered in the Dominion for Domestic Servants, and Women's Work in Canada, 1913-1920
(RG 76, vol. 358, file 411788, pts. 4 and 5, reel C-10261)
Empire Settlement; House Worker Problems (Empire Settlement Act), 1923-1936
(RG 76, vol. 361, file 434173, reel C-10263)
Mrs. Simpson Hayes, Winnipeg, Manitoba; trip to old country to bring out domestics (Great Britain) (lists), 1906-1916
(RG 76, vol. 402, file 583758, reel C-10293)
Grant for the Calgary Women's Hostel, Calgary, Alberta (Empire Settlement Act ), 1906-1933
(RG 76, vol. 403, file 58245, pts. 1-5, reels C-10293 and C-10294)
Training of domestics in Canada, 1934-1935
(RG 76, vol. 406, file 594293, reel C-10296)
Applications for farm labourers and domestics from Glengarry County, Ontario, 1908-1921
(RG 76, vol. 411, file 494173 Glengarry, reel C-10299)
Applications for farm labourers and domestics from Nipissing County, Ontario, 1908-1916
(RG 76, vol. 412, file 595173 Nipissing, reel C-10299)
The Women's Canadian Employment Bureau; Mrs. Jane Rodford, Montreal, Quebec (lists), 1907-1917
(RG 76, vols. 421-423, file 616279, pts. 1-10, reels C-10306 and C-10307)
Ottawa Free Press, advertisement regarding a Mrs. Thames, London, England, sending maids to Canada, 1924
(RG 76, vol. 449, file 682060, reel C-10324)
Coloured domestics from Guadeloupe (lists), 1910-1928
(RG 76, vol. 475, file 731832, reel C-10411)

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Ottawa Free Press pamphlet, Farm Labourers and Domestic Servants Wanted in Ontario, 1907-1908
(RG 76, vol. 479, file 742102, reel C-10414)
Sarah Ventress, Trenton, Ontario; protection for girls landing at port, 1907-1908
(RG 76, vol. 485, file 750189, reel C-10419)
Women's welcome house, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1907-1924
(RG 76, vol. 489, file 755319, reel C-10422)
Home for care and placing of domestic servants.
A.W. Graham, Canadian Government Employment Agent, St. Thomas, Ontario; getting labourers and domestics through the James A. Smart Co., 1908
(RG 76, vol. 492, file 762911, reel C-10426)
H.W.J. Paton, Booking Agent, Aberdeen, Scotland, would like the assistance in sending farm lands and domestics to Canada (lists), 1908-1921
(RG 76, vol. 538, file 803839, pts. 1 and 2, reel C-10627)
Mrs. Sarah McArthur, Belfast, Ireland; Canadian Domestic Guild (lists), 1908-1920
(RG 76, vols. 551 and 552, file 806038, pts. 1-5, reel C-10635)
Immigration from the British West Indies, 1909-1949
(RG 76, vols. 566 and 567, file 810666, pts. 1-3, reel C-10646)
Employment agencies; general, 1913-1935
(RG 76, vols. 578 and 579, file 817559, pts. 4-6, reels C-10653 and C-10654)
Grant of $1,000 for Women's Hostel and Traveler's Aid, Ottawa, Ontario, 1911-1919
(RG 76, vol. 591, file 834078, reel C-10662)
Ocean conductresses on ships with soldiers, dependants and household workers, 1928-1938
(RG 76, vol. 604, file 889111, reel C-10671)
Canadian Women's Hostel, Montreal, Quebec (Dorchester House), 1914-1927
(RG 76, vols. 604 and 605, file 890896, pts. 1-7, reels C-10671 and C-10672)
William Stoddart, London, England; emigration of women from Great Britain (Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women), 1917-1948
(RG 76, vols. 620-622, file 920675, pts. 1-10, reels C-10438 to C-10440)
Ontario government assisted passages for farm labourers and household workers (lists), 1920-1934
(RG 76, vol. 643, file 990380, pts. 1-4, reel C-10583)
Saskatchewan government assisted passages for farm labourers and household workers (lists), 1920-1937
(RG 76, vol. 643, file 990543, pts. 1-3, reel C-10583)
Manitoba government assisted passages for farm labourers and household workers (lists), 1920-1928
(RG 76, vol. 644, file 990544, reel C-10583)
Domestics selected from refugee groups in Europe, 1947-1948
(RG 76, vol. 656, file B46936, pts. 1 and 2, reels C-10592 and C-10593)
Domestics from Europe; policy and instructions, 1950-1952
(RG 76, vol. 673, file C83755, reel C-10676)
Admission to Canada of members of the Women's Land Army of the United Kingdom, 1950-1951
(RG 76, vol. 675, file D12300, reel C-10677)
Mrs. E. Corneil, Matron, Immigration Building, Quebec City, Quebec; also, Marie C. du Tremblay, Women's Protective Immigration Society, 1888-1915
(RG 76, vol. 687, file 3820, reel C-10685)
Mary T. Moore, Prime Minister's household staff, 1974-1975
(RG 76, vol. 716, file HQ4-18200)
Domestics from Europe; policy and instructions, 1952-1962
(RG 76, vol. 835, file 553-30, pts. 1 and 2)
Displaced persons (domestics); policy and instructions, 1948-1951
(RG 76, vol. 836, file 553-31)
Nurses and domestics (displaced persons), Switzerland, 1949-1950
(RG 76, vol. 836, file 553-31-626)
Movements of domestics and farm couples, 1952-1959
(RG 76, vol. 836, file 553-32, pts. 1-3)
Movement of domestics from Denmark, 1922-1962
(RG 76, vol. 836, file 553-33-534)
Movement of domestics from Greece, 1956-1966
(RG 76, vols. 836 and 837, file 553-33-552, pts. 1-6)
Movement of domestics from Italy, 1951-1963
(RG 76, vol. 837, file 553-33-575)
Movement of domestics from Spain, 1956-1961
(RG 76, vol. 837, file 553-33-623, pts. 1 and 2)
Movement of domestics from Trieste, 1958
(RG 76, vol. 837, file 553-33-630)
Movement of domestics from the United Kingdom, 1951-1964
(RG 76, vol. 838, file 553-33-636)
Domestics; admission for training, 1935-1959
(RG 76, vol. 838, file 553-35)
Movement of domestics (coloured) from British Guana, 1956-1966
(RG 76, vol. 838, file 553-36-556)
Movement of domestics from Haiti, 1947-1969
(RG 76, vol. 838, file 553-36-560)
Movement of domestics from British Honduras, 1956-1966
(RG 76, vol. 838, file 553-36-563)
Movement of domestics from Jamaica, 1962-1966
(RG 76, vol. 838, file 553-36-577)
Surveys of domestics from West Indies, 1961-1964
(RG 76, vol. 839, file 553-36-644-1)
Issuance of diplomatic and courtesy visas, 1954-1966
(RG 76, vol. 906, file 569-31)
Includes visas for domestic staff at embassies.
Immigration manuals and instructions, first and second series, 1950-1978
(RG 76, vols. 932-945)
Includes material on immigration of domestics, scattered throughout.
Selection and processing (domestics), Caribbean area (secret), 1962-1967
(RG 76, vol. 992, file 5850-6-4-533)
Selection and processing; general, 1970
(RG 76, acc. 83-84/349, box 132, file 5850-1, pt. 6)
Includes processing of domestics.
Occupational selection (domestics); general, 1942-1976
(RG 76, acc. 83-84/349, box 149, file 5850-6-4)
Occupational selection (domestics), Caribbean area, 1968-1976
(RG 76, acc. 83-84/349, box 150, file 5850-1-6-4, pts. 2-7)
Occupational selection (domestics), Germany, 1965-1966
(RG 76, acc. 83-84/349, box 150, file 5850-6-4-551)
Occupational selection, French West Indies, Guadeloupe and Martinique, 1971-1975
(RG 76, acc. 83-84/349, box 150, file 5850-6-4-557)
Occupational selection, Philippines, 1965-1974
(RG 76, acc. 83-84/349, box 150, file 5850-6-4-611)
Recruitment by counseling and employment agencies; general, 1966-1975
(RG 76, acc. 83-84/349, box 161, file 5855-4-1, pts. 1-7)
Counseling and employment agencies; general, 1968-1976
(RG 76, acc. 83-84/349, box 161, file 5855-4-2, pts. 1-4)
Employment agencies; Home Help (Overseas) Ltd., 1973-1974
(RG 76, acc. 83-84/349, box 163, file 5855-4-31)
Employment Agencies Domestic Aid Services, 1975-1977
(RG 76, acc. 83-84/349, box 163, file 5855-4-39, pt. 1)
Employment Agencies Domestic Help Agency, alias Canadian Placement Bureau, 1974-1978
(RG 76, acc. 83-84/349, box 163, file 5855-4-41, pt. 1)
Records of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration (RG 26)

These are records of the Deputy Minister responsible for immigration between 1949 and 1966, including some documents dated earlier, together with some reference and statistical material.

Other Government Records

There are also scattered files or references to this topic in related record groups. RG 17, series A contains the Department of Agriculture's immigration subject dockets before 1893, of which RG 76, series B is a continuation. RG 2, series A 5 a (Records of the Privy Council - Cabinet Conclusions) contains decisions of Cabinet on immigration policy as to domestics, period 1945-1957. RG 25 (Department of External Affairs) contains relevant information, especially in series A and G. RG 27 (Department of Labour), especially the records of the Immigration-Labour Committee and the records on the Employment Service of Canada, may have information on early federal involvement in the analysis of the need for immigrants with particular occupations, including domestic service. RG 30, series V A 9 (Canadian National Railways - Colonization and Agriculture Department) may include records on the movement of domestics to western Canada in the 1910s to the 1930s. RG 118 (Manpower) may include information on analysis of Canada's employment market for domestic servants from the 1940s onwards. RG 6 (Secretary of State), and RG 106 (Office of the Coordinator, Status of Women) may contain records regarding policy on women's issues, including policy towards immigrant domestics.

2. Selected Bibliography

Barber, Marilyn. "Below Stairs: The Domestic Servant," in National Museum of Man, Material History Bulletin. No. 19 (spring 1984)

Barber, Marilyn. "Domestic service in Manitoba, 1896-1930," in Mary Kinnear, ed. First Days, Fighting Days: Women in Manitoba History. Regina, Canadian Plains Research Centre, 1987

Barber, Marilyn. Immigrant Domestic Servants in Canada. Ottawa, Canadian Historical Association, 1991

Barber, Marilyn. "Sunny Ontario for British Girls, 1900-30," in Jean Burnet, ed. Looking into My Sister's Eyes: an Exploration in Women's History. Toronto, The Multicultural History Society of Ontario, 1986

Canada. Employment and Immigration Canada. Foreign Domestic Workers in Canada: Facts for Domestics and Employers. [booklet] Rev. ed., Ottawa, Ministry of Supply and Services Canada, 1986

Harris, Ruth L. The Transformation of Canadian Policies and Programs to Recruit Foreign Labor: the Case of Caribbean Female Domestic Workers, 1950s-1980s. Ph.D. dissertation, Michigan State University, 1988

Lacelle, Claudette. Urban Domestic Servants in 19th Century Canada. Ottawa, Parks Canada, 1987

Thematic Guides