This page provides suggestions for researching the family history and genealogy of Irish Canadians. Irish immigrants began arriving in Canada as early as the 1600s and kept coming afterwards. The largest numbers came in the mid-1800s during the Famine years.
On this page
Before you start
Gather information such as:
- approximate year of birth
- country of birth
- approximate year of arrival
- place of residence in Canada
Places to look
There are many resources available for researching your Irish ancestors.
1. Census records
Canadian censuses often recorded the ethnicity of individuals and their place of origin. For example, the 1911 Census recorded ethnic origin and the country or province of birth. Starting with the 1901 census, census enumerators asked people who were not born in Canada to provide their year of immigration.
LAC holds the records for all official Canadian censuses.
You can search for your ancestor by name.
- Select your census of choice
- Enter your name term in the Surname and/or Given name(s) fields.
2. Birth, marriage and death records
Provincial and territorial government offices record births, marriages and deaths, also known as civil registration records. Those offices regularly transfer older records to the provincial or territorial archives. Municipal archives sometimes hold records, but those tend to be old church records from before the start of civil registration.
Information about the records and where to find them is found in researching your ancestors in birth, marriage and death records
3. Immigration records
Depending on when they arrived, information about an Irish ancestor might be found in immigration records, such as passenger lists.
Information about the records and how to access them is found in Immigration records.
Several other immigration record collections are available through Library and Archives Canada (LAC), including:
- Immigrants at Grosse Ile (1832-1937)
- This database includes information on 33,026 immigrants whose names appear in surviving records of the Grosse Île Quarantine Station between 1832 and 1937.
- RG76: Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files
- This sub-series contains immigration files from 1892 to the mid-1900s (many files relate only to policy and administrative issues, others contain names)
- Files that contain names of individuals have the word “lists” in the file title
- Most of these files are digitized on microfilm
- RG17: Department of Agriculture: Immigration Branch
- The Immigration Branch was part of the Department of Agriculture before 1892
- Some of the immigration files in this series include names of immigrants
- File titles generally do not indicate if the files contain names of immigrants
To search for RG76, RG17 and other records:
- Go to Collection Search
- Select Advanced Search.
- In the Database box, select Collections and Fonds.
- Enter the fonds reference number (for example, RG76) in the Exact Phrase box. (optional)
- In Any of these words, enter your keywords.
- Examples of keywords: Irish, Ireland, list, immigrants, emigrants, emigration, settlers
- Also try searching with a person’s name or the name of a county in Ireland
4. Published sources
Many ethno-cultural groups and communities have published their own histories. These publications can include stories that might help you better understand the experiences of your ancestors. They may also include information about specific individuals. Use our Aurora catalogue to search for other books, including guides and genealogy indexes. Try keywords like “Irish,” “Irish Canadian,” or “Orangemen,” plus:
- a place, settlement, county or province
To help you with your research, we have compiled a list of books in our Aurora catalogue. Most of these books include information about individuals.
Each title in this list includes the author and the LAC call number.
- If the call number includes the word genealogy, that means the book is in the genealogy room URL at our Ottawa location.
- Example of a call number: Genealogy Ref. - CS88 A2 A38 2003
You can click on a title in the list to open the full catalogue entry. Then if you scroll down, you will see a list of other libraries that hold copies. You can also check your local library’s online catalogue.
5. Genealogical societies
Local genealogical societies and genealogical societies that are specific to ethno-cultural groups often have extensive resources. Internet searches can help you locate these societies.
Try keywords like “Irish,” “Irish Canadian,” plus:
- genealogical society
- heritage museum
- Consider events and locations that are connected to Irish Canadians. Such events include:
- The Great Irish Potato Famine
- Fenian Raids
- St. Patrick’s Day parades
- Religious denomination (Protestants and Catholics) was a factor in Irish immigration and settlement patterns.
- Spelling was not standardized, and the same names might be written in many different ways.
Access the records
Records that are digitized
If you find a record of interest, there may be a digital image. Some of these are available through Collection Search. Others, particularly digitized microforms, are available through Héritage.
Records that are not digitized
For records that are not digitized, you will need to see them in person. If you cannot visit us in person, you may want to order copies or hire a researcher.