Canada’s most recent census returns note the Irish as the 4th largest ethnic group in Canada with practically 4.5 million Canadians claiming either some or complete Irish lineage. Certainly, this bond in between Canada and Ireland has remained in existence for centuries.

The first recognized Irish-born immigrant to Canada was Tec Cornelius Aubrenon, who arrived in New France in 1661 and remained until his death in 1687. However the Irish presence in Canada can be dated even earlier than the arrival of Aubrenon. As early as the middle of the 16th century, Irish anglers from the south of Ireland frequently took a trip to Newfoundland for part of their catch.

By far, the largest migration of the Irish to Canada occurred throughout the mid-19th century. The Great Irish Potato Famine of 1847 was the cause of death, mainly from hunger, of over a million Irish. It was likewise the inspiration behind the mass exodus of hundreds of countless Irish to The United States And Canada. Because passage to Canada was cheaper than passage to the United States, Canada was the recipient of some of the most destitute and bereft Irish.

Passage was difficult for those making the 3,000 mile voyage from Ireland. Crammed into steerage for over six weeks, these “Coffin Ships” were a breeding ground for lots of diseases. The main destination for most of these ships was the port of Québec and the mandatory stop at the quarantine island of Grosse Île. By June of 1847, the port of Québec became so overloaded, that lots of ships carrying over 14,000 Irish queued for days to make landing. It is approximated that nearly 5,000 Irish passed away on Grosse Île and it is known to be the biggest Irish burial ground exclusive of Ireland. Many Irish immigrants played a significant role in Canadian society. Perhaps one of Canada’s more popular immigrants from Ireland was Canadian Parliamentarian Thomas D’Arcy McGee.

Apart from the yearly St. Patrick’s Day parade hosted by many cities, towns and communities across Canada, the proud presence of the Irish in Canada today is also manifest in the myriad of Irish societies and associations spread out across the country. There are likewise several Canadian associations for Irish studies in addition to university programs and courses dedicated to this very same theme.

Research study at Library and Archives Canada

Names of Irish immigrants can be found in different series of records, generally guest lists. For the years before 1865, we recommend that you consult initially the following online resources.

Immigrants at Grosse Île

This database consists of details on 33,026 immigrants whose names appear in enduring records of the Grosse Île Quarantine Station between 1832 and 1937. Names were drawn out from various sort of documents.

Immigrants at Grosse Ile (1832-1937)

Immigrants prior to 1865

Library and Archives Canada holds a variety of lists that have been recognized and indexed by name in a database, formerly known as our Miscellaneous Migration Index. A number of the records connect to immigrants from the British Islands to Quebec and Ontario, however there are likewise recommendations to inhabitants in other provinces. The database also consists of other types of records such as lists of the Irish settlers gave the Peterborough area of Ontario in the early 1820s, the statements of aliens for Lower Canada and names of some Irish orphans.

Immigrants prior to 1865

Montreal Emigrant Society Passage Book

Upon their arrival, lots of bad immigrants needed to count on benevolent societies for support when they arrived in North America. The Montreal Emigrant Society was established in 1831. Its main function was to supply transport for immigrants who had actually come to Montreal from Quebec and were destined for settlement in different parts of Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario). Library and Archives Canada holds one register of names of immigrants for the year 1832 from the Montreal Emigrant Society (RG 7 G18). The passage book has been digitized and is available online. Making use of this digitized database is assisted in by a name index.

Montreal Emigrant Society Passage Book (1832 )

Guest lists, 1865-1935

The names of Irish immigrants concerning Canada after 1865 can be discovered in immigrations records.

Passenger Lists, 1865-1935.

Other series of files

Library and Archives Canada also holds some private fonds relating to Irish families such as:

  • Heney Family collection, 1710-1980 (MG 25 G 347)
  • Collection consists of genealogical charts and information concerning the Heney Family of the Ottawa location, and associated households.
  • Radcliffe Family fonds, 1832-1833 (MG 29 A 52)
    • Letters written by members of the Radcliff household to family and friends in Ireland.
  • Diary of an Irish immigrant woman, 1869 (MG55/29)
    • Diary of an Irish immigrant lady which describes her experiences while travelling in 1869, from Dublin to Canada on the sailing ship Girl Seymour with her family.

    Research in Released Sources

    Search for books on Irish in AMICUS, utilizing authors, titles or subject terms such as:

    • Irish genealogy
    • Irish genealogies
    • Irish Canada
    • Irish immigration
    • Irish immigrants

    Research at Other Institutions and Online