Migration In and Out of Canada

Updated: Apr 29, 2018

Late 1800s migration from England to the US through Canada

Woolwich, England

The story left behind in London, England was that Henry and William Parsons, 16 and 18 years old respectively, came to America to search for gold. In seeking their whereabouts I immediately considered the time period for the California gold rush. The year of the brothers’ arrival was 1870, fifteen years after the gold rush in the United States had ended in 1855. Instead, the date of their arrival coincided with a panic in the states regarding the gold market in New York City so this did not match with the story either. But in Canada there were discoveries of gold and other precious metals during this time. Given the story about gold in North America in 1870, the choice for search location was to be Canada. 


When it was discovered that Canada was being used as a means to gain entry into the United States, it was mitigated by the Canadian Agreement. This gave the U.S. the ability to inspect incoming ships to bar any immigrants who had already been prevented from entering the U.S. If they were found to be on one of the ships entering Canada, the transporting companies were responsible for shipping them back.


But Canada was not only used as a port of entry for those moving toward settling in the US. There were several waves of immigration from the United States to Canada beginning with the American Revolution. British loyalists fled to the safety of Southern Ontario. During the late 1780s and 1812 a second wave of settlers came to Ontario for the promise of land ownership.

THE ATTRACTION OF DOMINION LANDS ACT OF 1872 The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 included the time when Henry and William were discovered to be residing in Canada. This act was similar to the United States Homestead Act which promised 160 acres for free. The applicant would have to be at least 18 years of age, agree to cultivate at least 40 acres of land, and build a permanent dwelling on it within three years to qualify.  It does not appear that the Parsons brothers took advantage of the offer. Though it may have been attractive to some, it was undesirable to many. Details such as the distance from any railroad being at least 20 miles made the move less than attractive. Prior to 1896 most immigrants preferred moving to the U.S. 

ATTRACTION OF CANADIAN MILITARY DEVELOPMENTS When it came to gold, there were several rushes in Canada, but the Parsons never took advantage of them regardless of the story back home.  If they had gold on their minds when they arrived in Canada the reality of the hardships may have settled in prior to jumping on the bandwagon. Or it may have been that Henry decided it was more advantageous and desirable to join the new permanent military force formed in 1871, which records show he did. Military developments also affect migration as do social situations. It wasn’t long after Henry and William arrived in Canada that Henry met his future wife. This may have kept him from pursuing gold and it may also have prolonged a move to the states as well.

When looking for ancestors who left for the United States, Canada should be investigated. Between military, social, economic, and gold rushes, Canada should not be overlooked as a desirable port of entry during the 18th and 19th centuries. 

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