This page provides general instructions on researching people from any ethno-cultural group in Canada. We have created separate guides for
Indigenous peoples. Resources exist for several specific ethno-cultural groups.
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 several ways to research your ancestors from ethno-cultural groups.
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, we 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 by name, ethnicity or country of birth:
- Select your
census of choice
- Enter your search term in the keyword field
- Examples of search terms include: England or English, Japan or Japanese, Jewish or Hebrew
2. Birth, marriage and death records
Provincial and territorial government offices record births, marriages and deaths. These are also known as civil registration records. Those offices regularly transfer older records to the provincial or territorial archives.
For more information, see researching your ancestors in
birth, marriage and death records.
3. Immigration and citizenship records
These records usually include information about ethnicity and place of birth.
For more information, see:
Other immigration record collections available through LAC include:
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 include names of individuals have the word “lists” in the file title
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
Searching inside a specific fonds
To search for files inside of a specific fonds:
- Go to
- In the
Database field, select "Collections and Fonds".
- Enter the fonds reference number (for example, RG76) in the Exact Phrase field.
- In the
All these words field, enter your keywords. For example:
Empire Settlement Act
- a person’s name
- You can also use the
* wildcard character, for example
Norw* for Norway and Norwegians.
4. Community organizations
Many ethno-cultural groups established community organizations in Canada, such as the
Italian Society, Principe di Piemonte or the
Association of Polish Engineers in Canada.
Other organizations have deposited their records at LAC. In
Collection Search, try the name of the ethno-cultural group or country of origin, plus:
- community organization
- philanthropic organization
- benevolent aid society
5. Community newspapers
Many ethno-cultural groups published their own newspapers. These documents often contain:
- birth and marriage announcements
- major community events
LAC holds some collections of ethno-cultural community newspapers. You can search
Aurora to find these publications. Try entering the name of an ethno-cultural group or place of origin, plus the term newspaper or periodical.
6. Published sources
Many ethno-cultural groups and communities have published their own histories. These publications can include stories that might help you understand your ancestors' experiences. They may also include information about specific individuals. Use our
Aurora catalogue to search for other books, including guides and genealogy indexes. Try Subject Keyword to start your search. Use keywords such as:
- a place in Canada or another country
- an ethnic or religious group
We've prepared a list of examples from our Aurora catalogue to give you an idea of the types of books you might find. Each title in this list includes the author and the LAC call number.
Genealogy Ethno-cultural groups list.
- Click on a title in the list to open the full catalogue entry. If you scroll down, you'll see a list of other libraries that hold copies. You can also check your local library’s online catalogue.
- If the call number includes the word genealogy, the book is in the genealogy room at our Ottawa location.
- Example of a call number: Genealogy Ref. - CS88 A2 A38 2003
7. Genealogical societies
Local genealogical societies and those specific to ethno-cultural groups have extensive resources. Internet searches can help you locate these societies.
- Consider major events and locations connected with specific ethno-cultural groups.
- For example, consider records relating to the internment of Japanese-Canadians when researching Japanese ancestors.
- Look at neighbourhoods and communities. It was common for individuals from ethno-cultural groups to settle in the same area. You may be able to find your ancestors by looking geographically or by finding other members of the same ethno-cultural group.
- Terminology has changed over the years.
- For example, records might refer to people from India as “H*ndoo” or “H*ndu”. Try several different options in your search.
- Spelling was not standardized; a name might have many different spellings.
Access the records
If you find a record of interest, there may be a digital image. Some of these are available through Collection Search. Others, particulary digitized microforms, are available through
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.
Research guides and other resources
|Title||Guide description||Topic||Sub-topic||Type of guide||Edit title|
|Black Canadians||Find resources for researching the family history and genealogy of Black Canadians.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Subject guide|
|German Canadians||Find resources for researching the family history and genealogy of German Canadians.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Subject guide|
|Ukrainian Canadians||Find resources for researching the family history and genealogy of Ukrainian Canadians.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Subject guide|
|Ethno-cultural groups||Find resources for researching people from any ethno-cultural group in Canada.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Subject guide|
|Japanese Canadians||Find resources for researching the family history and genealogy of Japanese Canadians.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Subject guide|
|Jewish Canadians||Find resources for researching the genealogy and family history of Jewish Canadians.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Subject guide|
|Irish Canadians||Find resources for researching the family history and genealogy of Irish Canadians.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Subject guide|
|Acadians||Find resources for researching the family history and genealogy of Acadians||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Subject guide|
|Doukhobors||Find resources for researching the family history and genealogy of Doukhobors.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Subject guide|
|Chinese Canadians||Find resources for researching the family history and genealogy of Chinese Canadians.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Subject guide|
|Ukrainian Immigrants, 1891-1930||Search lists of Ukrainian immigrants pulled from passenger lists and publications.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Database|
|Immigrants from China, 1885-1949||Find records for Chinese immigrants who came to Canada and Newfoundland.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Database|
|Immigrants from the Russian Empire, 1898 to 1922 ||Consular records contain the names from the passport and identify files of the Russian Consular records. These include immigrants from Russia and what is now Ukraine, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania.||Genealogy and family history||Ethno-cultural groups||Database|