Sub-series consists of ships' passenger manifests (or passenger lists), the sole surviving official record of the arrival of most people accepted as immigrants in Canada 1865-1935. They remain a significant source for the period from 1908 to 1952.
The sub-series includes ships' manifests from Quebec City, Halifax, Saint John, North Sydney, New York, Eastern U.S. ports, Vancouver, Victoria and other Pacific ports; Vancouver and Victoria passenger lists; and individual manifests (Form 30A).
The official Immigration ship's manifest is a list of immigrants arriving at an official port of entry on a particular ship on a given date. Generally speaking, each manifest gives: the name of the ship; its port(s) and date(s) of departure; its
port(s) and date(s) of arrival in Canada; and the name, age, sex, profession or occupation, nationality and destination of each passenger aboard (Personal information may be omitted in some of the earlier manifests for wives, minor children, groups of
labourers, and first and second class passengers). Depending on the date, some manifests may contain other information on the immigrants' health, religion, previous visits to Canada, family relationships, and cash on hand.
The format of the lists varies over time. Standard manifest forms were used increasingly from the 1870s onward. However, from 1860s-1890s a number of the manifests (especially for arrivals from European ports) are of irregular format, or are
inscribed on U.S. immigration manifest forms.
The lists from 1865 to 1922 are arranged by port and date of arrival. They are not indexed, except for the Quebec lists from 1865 to 1869. From 1925 to 1935, the lists also include: place and country of birth; name and address of the relative,
friend or employer to which the immigrant was destined; and the name, relationship and address of the nearest relative in the country from which he or she came. The lists for each port and year have been assigned volume and page numbers, with each
port/year starting at volume one.
Immigration has maintained offices at various places termed "ports of entry" - responsible for the official reception and documentation of immigrants - from Confederation onwards. The present formal process for designating ports of entry was not
set up until after the First World War. Before that time, the decision to collect records of entry at a particular port (and then to forward them systematically to Ottawa) appears to have been an informal administrative action.
The National Archives of Canada currently holds Seaport Records of Entry, also known as ships' manifests, for the following ports of entry in the period 1865-1935: Quebec City, P.Q. includes Montreal, (1 May 1865); Montreal, (1 January 1925);
Halifax, N.S., (January 1881); Saint John, N.B., (1 January 1900); New York City, N.Y., (1 July 1905); Baltimore, Md., (1 July 1905); Boston, Mass., (1 July 1905); Portland, Maine, (December 1905); Vancouver, B.C., (January 1905); Victoria, B.C. & other
Pacific ports, (April 1905); North Sydney, N.S., (November 1906); Philadelphia, Penn., (ca.1908 to 1911); Providence, R.I., (July 1911); and all Canadian ports (form 30A) (1919 to 1924). The date in parentheses is the date that the records begin.
In order to maintain a record of immigrants arriving at American seaports and proceeding directly overland to Canada, in 1905 the Canadian immigration service began to collect extracts of U.S. manifests kept at the east coast ports of New York,
Baltimore, Boston, Portland, Philadelphia and Providence.
The ships' manifests, 1865-1935 were transferred to the National Archives by the Records of Entry Unit (later Query Response Centre) in four groups: 1865-1900 records in 1971, 1900-1908 records in 1980, 1908-1918 records in 1984, and 1919-1935
records in 1997. The 1908-1918 portion contains a few manifests dated as late as 1921 at the end of the 1918 reels.