Canada, Immigration Resources for British Columbia and the Territories (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian:Immigration Records  by Patricia McGregor, PLCGS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

British Columbia[edit | edit source]

The Nootka Convention of 1790 settled the rival claims of Spain and Britain for Vancouver Island and parts of the north-west mainland. Spain left the area early in the next century and explorers from the North West Company established trading posts in the area—called New Caledonia at that time. After the merger with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821 it took control of the area. In 1849 Vancouver Island was declared a British Colony. The Hudson’s Bay Company was granted exclusive trading rights on the island and sold land to colonists using a portion of the profits to build roads and bridges and clear land. The British wanted to establish a clear presence in the area to deter American expansion north.

By 1853 there were 450 settlers and many of them were becoming dissatisfied with the control the HBC held over the area. Everything changed after gold was discovered in the Fraser Valley in 1858. This occurred at a time when the glory days of the California gold rush were over. It is estimated that about 20,000 people passed through Victoria on their way to the gold fields. The colony of British Columbia was created after the Hudson’s Bay Company ceded the area to the crown. The colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island joined together in 1866 and Victoria became the capitol. In 1871 British Columbia joined Confederation, in part because of an agreement to extend the railway to the west coast. The railway was completed to Vancouver in 1885.

A large number of Chinese had emigrated to California during the gold rush. The vast majority of these were men, many of whom were married but could not afford to bring their wives and children. Those who made money sent much of it home to their families in China. As the gold ran out in California, some who had enough money returned to China while others moved north looking for work or hoping to strike it rich. Many found work in lumber camps and in road and railroad construction. When the boon was over, those who could afford to, returned to China, but many stayed and settled in BC while others migrated east.

After Alaska was sold by Russia to the United States, a number of Finns who had been in the service of the Russian Government there, came to British Columbia. Other Finns migrated west from Michigan and Minnesota to work on the railway construction and they settled on land along the route. Some Finns were employed in the coal mines on Vancouver Island as early as 1885. The community of Sointula on Malcolm Island was begun in 1901 as a cooperative by Finnish coal miners at Nanaimo.

“In November, 1901 the Provincial Government granted the whole of Malcolm Island, consisting of 28,000 acres to the Finnish Cooperative Company on condition that the Company brought 350 families to the Island in the next seven years, improve the land to the extent of $2.50 per acre and build its own schools, wharfs, roads etc.” (Gibbon 1938, 257)

A group of Norwegians migrated from Minnesota to Bella Coola and established a successful fishing colony. Many Swedes were attracted to the lumber industry in B.C.

The Canadian Pacific Railway brought Swiss guides to BC to promote Alpine climbing in the Rockies. Some stayed and settled near Golden. They have been joined by other Swiss settlers who preferred a mountain environment.

Some of the Doukhobors who originally settled in Saskatchewan at the turn of the century migrated on to BC, establishing the communities at Brilliant and Grand Forks and later on at Cowley and Lundbreck.

British Columbia Archives
BC Archives
675 Belleville Street
Victoria BC V8W 9W2

British Columbia Genealogy Society

British Columbia GenWeb

Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut[edit | edit source]

The early Europeans in the area were explorers and traders. Major migrations into the area began with the gold rush. Some of the hopefuls stayed after the gold rush was over, many others returned home.

From the introductory page of Yukon Genealogy in 2005:

“During the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 thousands of fortune hunters from around the world stampeded into the Yukon. Upon entering the Territory and establishing a place to live and work people were inscribed on various lists. Today these lists are accessible to you as a means to find out if your relatives were part of Dawson City during the Gold Rush.”

Yukon Websites[edit | edit source]

Northwest Territories Websites[edit | edit source]

Nunavut Websites[edit | edit source]


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian: Immigration Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.