Monday, 19 May 2014


People from all over the world have come to Canada seeking a better life for their families. Some people scrimped, borrowed and saved to pay passage to come here.  Some came from moneyed families but were not in line to inherit and were perhaps looking for adventure. Some came as indentured servants, and some were brought here specifically to work, as for the railroad, and not always treated well or fairly.   These people came with their own traditions and customs and made Canada the multicultural country it is today. Books were published and Societies popped up in the cities to help the new immigrants, i.e. The German Society, Saint Patrick’s Society, etc.

Scottish Doctor George Mellis Douglas worked at Grosse Ile from 1832 until his death in 1864, enduring the worst of the cholera outbreaks. In 1859 Dr. Douglas bought Ile aux Ruaux (just west of Grosse Ile) and built a huge house there as a retreat from the city. He went down to the docks to greet the ships of immigrants from Scotland and there he hired my 3x great-grandfather, who had just arrived with his young wife and daughter. (I don’t know yet if they came as assisted passengers, still researching). He took my ancestors to Ile aux Ruaux, where they worked for the next 5 years as farm servants, to grow food that would help feed the people on Grosse Ile.

Ile aux Reaux

In the late 1800’s Mr. Sifton, newly appointed Minister of the Interior, took responsibility for homestead expansion into the west. Sifton initiated a vigorous recruiting campaign aimed at Central and Eastern European rural peasants. According to Sifton, a "stalwart peasant in a sheepskin coat, born on the soil, whose forefathers have been farmers for ten generations, with a stout wife and a half dozen children" was the right kind of settler for the Canadian West.  This is how my husband’s mother’s family came to immigrate to Canada from Galicia. They arrived by ship at Pier 21 Halifax, then went by train to Manitoba, a long arduous journey.

More recently, in the mid 1950’s or so, my parents were among others at our church that took in a Hungarian child for about a year while their immigrant parents found work and got settled. Although I was young it struck me how very hard it was for him, not knowing anyone or speaking the language. No matter how much clothing my parents bought him he would wear nothing but the leather shorts he arrived in. He was so happy the day his parents came to take him to their new home.

Whether your ancestors immigrated to America, Australia, India, or points beyond… think how they must have felt! Excitement. Trepidation. Most leaving all they knew and loved behind, often with a person they just married and barely knew. Women having their first baby and no mother to help or explain the process.  Men fearful that they would not be able to provide for their new growing family. Also their families back home, not hearing what became of them for possibly months.  They all have their stories to tell.

Relevant Links

Record of Indentures – Philidelphia 1771-1773  

The Walter E Babbitt Papers (Cape Cod Historian) – go past intro 

Immigrants to Canada (helpful site Univ Waterloo ON) 

Guide to the United States for the Jewish immigrant

The Emigrant's Informant, Or, A Guide to Upper Canada

Immigrants from England 1800 - 1900 – Frontenac County

Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, 1865-1872 (Check for other states as well)

Missing Friends (Ads for Irish Immigrants in Boston Newspaper The Pilot)

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