Immigration records can be tough. There are so many variables to consider. What country did they come from? When did they come? How old were they when they came? What port would they have come through?
If your ancestor came from a country outside the British Commonwealth, you do have one avenue open to you to help answer some of those questions. Library Archives Canada has digitized lists of citizens naturalized 1915-1951. Before we get to the lists, here's a bit of background information.
The Canadian policy on immigration has evolved over the years. The "open-door" policy of the 19th century evolved into stringent requirements which at specific time periods restricted immigration based on ethnicity. This again evolved into less emphasis on ethnicity and more on the skills and education of the prospective immigrant. From 1971 to now, Canada's official policy has circled back to the attitude of the 19th century, with an emphasis on multiculturalism. You can see a more complete timeline of Canada's immigration guidelines on the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21's website here,
The Immigration Act of 1914 brought stringent regulations on who could apply for naturalization:
- Must have been a resident of Canada for 5 years
- Must have knowledge of French or English
- Must show "good moral character"
Each year from 1919 to 1951, the government published annual lists of naturalized citizens in either the Sessional Papers or the Canada Gazette. The year 1919 shows lists that go back to 1915. Library and Archives Canada has these lists digitized online here. There are two sets in the collection.
Search Database by Name, 1915-1946
This set has been indexed by Surname, Given Name and Country. I decided to use "Zwicker" a non Commonwealth surname from my own tree. My Zwickers came in the 1700's, as part of the Lunenburg settlers, so I did not expect to find anyone directly related to me. I got 4 results:
I clicked on the last one, Yetta Zwicker/Herscovitch. Here's what came up when I clicked on the PDF of the page:
From looking at the page we now know:
- She also used the surname Herscovitch as some point. A maiden name perhaps?
- She was the wife of Morris Zwicker, who came from Austria
- She was naturalized In July 1941
- The certificate is dated August 5 1941
- Morris was a tailor that lived in Montreal, Que
- The record number is 32594E. Looking at the top of the page, series "E" certificates are given to people naturalized before the Immigration Act.
The main page of the LAC collection says that women were usually naturalized under their husbands application. If they decided to apply on their own afterward, they sometimes showed up under series E certificates. This would lead us to believe that Yetta was previously naturalized through her husband before 1941, and then applied in her own name afterwards.
Search Database by Date, 1947-1951
The second set of records have not been indexed for individual entries. I used the year 1950. Typing in a year will then give you a PDF for each month. I clicked on March, and got several other PDF options, as each one is a page for that particular month. The people are listed alphabetically, so you'll have to look at a few to get to the letter you need. The page I selected had surnames starting with M, N, and O. Looking at the top of the N surnames, I looked at the listing for Fukuji Nakamoto:
Fukuji was naturalized in March 1950. His certificate was dated March 24 1950. He was a cook in Grand Forks, BC, and was previously a Japanese citizen. His record number is 62643A. We know from the main page of the collection that A certificates were granted to "Aliens".
How to Obtain the Records
Now these lists have some good information, but the actual application can tell you more. The applications are not online, but you can obtain copies.
First you will need to fill out an Access to Information Request Form, which you can find here. The request will cost you $5.00, in cheque made out to to the Receiver General of Canada. Only a Canadian citizen or resident can apply. If you are not one, LAC does provide a list of freelance researchers who can make the request on your behalf here. Please keep in mind that you may have to pay an additional amount to the researcher for their work on your behalf.
If the person whose records you are requesting is still alive, you need their written consent. If they are deceased, you will have to supply proof of death. Keep in mind that they have to have been deceased for at least 20 years. This can be a copy of a death registration, a newspaper obitutary, or a picture of a headstone with name and date of death. The only exception to supplying either of these is if the person' birth date is over 110 years ago.
Make sure that in your request you give at least the following information on your immigrant ancestor:
- Given name
- Date of Birth
- Place of Birth
- Number of the Naturalization certificate. Make sure to include the series letter as well. Also indicate if the record is in French. The digitized lists will tell you if this is the case.
- State that you would like copies of the original records
Applications and supporting documents must be mailed to
Citizen and Immigration Canada'
Access to Information and Privacy Division
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1