Canadian emigrants

This guide was last updated in 2009

If your ancestors emigrated to Canada it's increasingly easy to track them down online, says Roger Kershaw.

It is estimated that some four million British people have migrated to Canada since the late 17th century. The early settlers were the French who founded Quebec City in 1600.

The majority of early British settlers were merchants, adventurers and pioneers. Many of the merchants were attached to the Hudson’s Bay Company which was founded in 1670, with a chief interest in fur trade, exploration and settlement.

An intense trade war with France ensued and this, together with the Seven Years War in Europe resulted in the Treaty of Paris in 1759, which effectively handed to Britain rule of Canada.

Most of the British settlers migrated in the 19th century, especially after the Land and Emigration Commission was set up in 1833 to specifically promote emigration by providing free passages and land grants. The majority of the British settlers came from rural areas, affected by the economic decline in the mid-19th century, although Jodie Kidd’s ancestor, Charles Drury, came over from Ireland in 1805.

Further waves of migration to Canada included those involving children and women (over 40,000 British women married Canadian servicemen and migrated to Canada after the Second World War). It is not always easy to find records of migrants to Canada but much is being done to improve this, particularly online.

Photo © Getty Images

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