My grandmother visited her family in England, circa 1926, with her two children, ages 5 and 2. She was pregnant with her third child, my father, who was born there in February 1926. Yet, I knew little about their journey. When did they leave? How long did they stay? When did they return to Canada? My father was always interested in learning when he came to Canada, but died in 2000 before ever learning the date of the voyage.
I decided to search family documents for clues. Two paintings in my grandmother’s autograph book, signed by her brother and his wife, are dated 08 June 1926. One titled “How Time Flies,” suggests their time in England would soon end. I knew they arrived in northern Saskatchewan in December 1926 leaving a gap of 6 months. To search passenger lists for their arrival at the Port of Quebec was a feat too large to undertake without careful planning.
I checked ArchiviaNet, the Library and Archives Canada search tool (now Collections Canada) for database updates. I found a brand-new database: Immigration Records (1925-1935). Putting my grandmother’s name into the search engine produced no entries for her. I also tried my aunt and uncle, to no avail. Then, in a moment of clarity, I realised the database was for new immigrants to Canada. Only landed immigrants would be listed in the search results. I put my father’s name into the search engine, and it produced numerous results, because his name is very common.
The results were organized by surname, given name, age and nationality. However, one entry caught my attention; a 4-month-old baby arrived in Canada in June 1926. I clicked on the entry and received additional information on the child including, surname, given name, age, sex, nationality, date of arrival, port of arrival, ship, reference, volume, page, and microfilm reel – all the information needed to find the original source.
I ordered the film on interlibrary loan and, several months later, verified that the infant was indeed my father. He was listed in the passenger pages of landed immigrants. My grandmother, uncle and aunt were listed under Returning Canadians. The passenger lists provide a clear picture of their seven month trip, beginning with my grandmother’s purchase of a passport on 04 November 1925 at Ottawa and ending with their arrival at the Port of Quebec on 19 June 1926.
I have included photocopies of both pages in my files. Had it not been for the immigration database on the Library and Archives Canada website, I may have never found my father’s arrival into Canada. Wonderful finding aids such as these enable family historians to find and verify their research through original source documents. I only wish my father had lived long enough to share in my discovery.
© Annette Fulford, 2008-2010