Ontario Migration

Immigration Records are held at the national level. For information about those records and where to find them, please visit CanadaGenWeb.

Why did my ancestors come to Ontario?
Where did they settle in Ontario and why?
Why did they leave Ontario?


Why did my ancestors come to Ontario?

In 1534 Jacques Cartier claimed the land surrounding the Gulf of St Lawrence for France. Over the ensuing years settlements were established including along the shorelines of Hudson Bay and Lake Huron in what is now Ontario.

As France and Britain colonized this new land they each did their best to populate the settlements with as many loyal subjects as they could. To entice settlers they advertised the wonderful new life they would have and offered free land.

However, the first major influx of settlers didn't occur until the American Revolutionary War ended in 1783 when those loyal to the British Crown fled from the newly formed United States into Nova Scotia. Over the next few years many of these refugees made their way west to Ontario as land became available.

Britain continued its campaign to populate Canada with those loyal to the British crown and encouraged immigration through advertisements and emigration schemes. These included:

A Proclamation....by his Excellancy John Graves Simcoe, Esquire : To such as are desirous to settle on the lands of the crown in the Province of Upper Canada by His Excellency John Graves Simcoe, Esquire.

1786-1825: "Canada, once known as British North America, has been home to Mennonites since 1786. The first Canadian Mennonites came from Pennsylvania to Upper Canada and were followed by an intermittent stream of immigrants which swelled on at least three other occasions into major movements of Mennonites to Canada. This group of Mennonites from Pennsylvania were a part of the group known as the Swiss-South German Mennonites who migrated to North America both directly from Switzerland as well as from France, Germany and Galicia-Volhynia beginning in 1683."

"The first group of Mennonites that came to Canada were pushed in part by hostility at home arising from their pacifism during the American Revolution. But they were also pulled by the promises and opportunities of a new western agricultural frontier where minority rights seemed better protected than in revolutionary America. Their original migration to North America was the result of severe persecution towards their way of life and faith, particularly their denunciation of infant baptism."

"It is estimated that approximately 2,000 Mennonites came from Pennsylvania to Ontario between 1786 and 1825. A detailed Canadian census in 1841 enumerated 5,379 Mennonites, of whom 3,022 lived in the Niagara District, 933 in the Wellington (Waterloo) district, and 859 in the Home (Markham) district." [From: Gwen Hasenpflug; Quoted from Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 August 2006 ]

1794:  An advertisement in Ireland stated "All religions are tolerated...no taxes or thytes are paid...and tradesmen of all denominations are in great request."

"In His Majesty's Province of Upper Canada. Forty Thousand Acres of Land to be Granted for Ever, in the Township of Norwich, ...a Most Healthy Situation on the Banks of Lake Ontario...Cork [Ireland], 1st November, 1794." [Quoted from: Impressions: 250 Years of Printing... In The Lives of Canadians]

1830's: The Petworth Emigration Scheme

1832: The London Lead Mining Company paid for 124 people to emigrate from Alston, Cumberland, England to alleviate the problems resulting from a depression in the industry. Other mining families from the area emigrated later. [Courtesy of Eileen Powers]