Find resources for researching the family history and genealogy of German Canadians. German immigrants came from all over Eastern and Central Europe, including:
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 German 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. These are also known as civil registration records. Those offices regularly transfer older records to the provincial or territorial archives. Information about the records and where to find them is found in researching your ancestors in birth, marriage and death records.
Municipal archives sometimes hold records. They tend to be old church records from before the start of civil registration.
Our collection of church records includes these ones with German-speaking congregations:
- St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, Balgonie, Saskatchewan
- St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Cambridge, Ontario
- Dutch Reformed Congregation, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia
For more information, see church and related birth, marriage and death records at Library and Archives Canada.
3. Immigration and citizenship records
Immigration and citizenship records often had information about ethnicity and place of birth. For more information, see:
Other records we hold that might be helpful, include:
- North American Baptist Immigration and Colonization Society fonds
- William von Moll Berczy fonds
- Immigration Branch, Central Registry Files (RG76)
These files include lists of names:
- Rosthern, Saskatchewan. German Catholic Settlement Society, 1902-1906 (volume 266, file 218250, microfilm C-7814)
- Association of German Canadian Catholics, Admission of 150 Refugees from Germany 1924-1926 (volume 241, file 148405, microfilm C-7390)
- Return to Germany of undesirable German Nationals in Canada, 1943-1959 (volume 487, file 753708, microfilm C-10421)
- Admission of doctors and nurses from refugee camps in Germany, 1946-1950 (volume 650, file B28865, microfilm C-10589)
- Germans at Glace Bay, Cape Breton, employed at Dominion Coal Company mines, wishing to go to western Canada, 1903 and 1906 ( volume 284, file 250610, microfilm C-7833)
- Canadian Christian Council for the Resettlement of Refugees, 1952-1953 (RG76, volume 656, file B41075, part 6, microfilm C-10592)
4. Military records
These records relate to German troops who served under British command during the American Revolution. Most relate to the Brunswick, Hesse-Hanau, and Anhalt contingents. Many of those soldiers settled in Canada after 1783.
War Office and Colonial Office Records (1778 to 1783)
- Nominal roll of the 1st Hesse-Hanau Battalion, January 1783 (MG13, WO28, volume 8, pages 205-208, microfilm B-2865)
- Nominal rolls of German troops, January 1782 (MG13 WO28, volume 10, pages 208-275, microfilm B-2867)
- Nominal rolls of German troops, 1778-1779 (MG11 CO42, volume 39, microfilm B-34 and B-35)
- Nominal rolls of German troops, 1779 (MG11 CO42, volume16, part 2, microfilm C-11891)
Haldimand Papers (MG21)
- Letters of officers of the German Legion, with reports, 1778-1784 (MG21, Add. Mss. 21811 and 21812, originals on microfilm reel A-743, originals; also volumes B.151 and B.152, transcripts on microfilm reel H-1650)
- Letters of officers of the German Legion, with reports, 1776-1783 (MG21, Add. Mss. 21813, originals on microfilm A-744; also volume B.153, transcripts on microfilm H-1650)
- List of all those discharged from the Hesse-Hanau Chasseurs, 1777-1783 [URL] (MG21, Add. Mss. 21812, originals on microfilm A-743; also volume B.152, transcripts on microfilm H-1650)
These records relate to the First World War:
Custodian of Enemy Property and internment operations records (RG6)
- This sub-series includes certificates of release from internment camps, 1914-1919 (RG6, volumes 772 to 780). Search for a reference in Collection Search. Enter a surname and the keywords RG6 and release certificate.
5. Community organizations
Germans established community organizations and mutual aid societies. Find records held at LAC by using Collection Search. You can try keywords such as German, plus:
- community organization
- aid society
- benevolent society
- family services
- immigration services
Here are some examples at LAC:
6. Community newspapers
There were many German Canadian newspapers. Search Aurora to find them by using key terms like German or Deutsche, plus newspaper. LAC holds some collections of German community newspapers, including:
7. Published sources
Many German Canadian historical societies and communities have published their own histories. Sometimes they'll have stories that help you better understand your ancestors' experiences. They may also include information about specific people. You can search Aurora to find these publications. Insert a surname or a place in Canada, plus keywords like:
- German genealogy
- German biographies
- German history
We've prepared a list of examples from our Aurora catalogue to give you an idea of the types of books you might find. Most of these include information about individuals. Each title in this list includes the author and the LAC call number.
Book list: German-Canadian genealogy
Book list: German troops in Canada
- 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
Consider larger historical events that shaped German Canadians' experiences:
- There were many waves of German immigrants, including those displaced by the American Revolution, First World War and Second World War
- Nineteenth century immigration to settle Upper Canada and Western Canada
- Some German immigrants and German Canadians were interned during the First World War.
- Consider neighbourhoods and communities. It was common for German immigrants to settle in the same areas. You may be able to find your ancestors by looking geographically.
- 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 and not restricted, 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.
War Office 42: Officers' Birth Certificates, Wills and Personal Papers
This series includes pension claims submitted by widows of officers of the King's German Legion who died in service or while on half-pay, 1775-1908 (MG13 WO42, volumes 52 to 58, microfilm B-4682 to B-4689). See War Office records for more details.