Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Irish Immigration Statistics


I am working with a PhD student who is looking for long time series for Irish immigration to Canada, going back as far as possible (even back to the 19th Century) and I have a few questions.

The 1966 to 1996 period is well covered by the Citizenship and Immigration statistics archives ( When looking for older statistics, I went to Historical Statistics of Canada which referred me to the Immigration statisticsannual publication by the CIC which provided me with the stats for the 1956 to 1966 period

This leaves me with 3 main questions:

1) After 1996 things are not that clear (at least not to me). CANSIM does provide a table (Immigrants to Canada, by country of last permanent residence #051-0006) but that table does not provide stats for Irish immigrants as those would be lumped under “Other Europe”. IS there another source to obtain that breakdown? I looked at the CIC website and more specifically at their Canada Facts and Figures 2012 document. That document presents data for the 2002 to 2012 period for “Permanent Residents by source country” and Ireland is listed as one of the countries. Would that number be equivalent to the number of immigrants by country of last residence? Even it that is the same number, that still leaves the 1997 to 2002 period uncovered, how can we obtain those stats?

2) For pre 1956 stats, I saw that the Canada Year Book would present tables going back to 1906 and I did find those numbers in the publication. However, the first edition of Historical Statistics of Canada seems to imply that, before 1956, immigrants were asked about their ethnic origin (or racial origin even earlier) rather than their country of last residence or country of origin. Can someone confirm this? The Canada Year Book tables do not have any explanatory notes and the language that they use for immigrant origins seems to change every so often.

3) And finally, for pre 1906 statistics, the essay in Historical Statistics of Canada (first edition) mentions various sources including, for the 1852 to 1959 period, the Annual Report 1959-60 of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. Does anyone know if that report actually has immigration statistics for the whole period and, if so, does it provide statistics by country of origin or ethnic origin?


For historical data

Table 075-0022  offers Historical statistics, country of birth of other British-born and foreign-born population, *Terminated* every 10 years (foreign-born persons unless otherwise noted): < 07500 22&searchTypeByValue=1&p2=35> (Data from the Census of Pop) Immigrant population by place of birth and period of immigration (2006 Census) <>

For the early period (1867-1920s or so). You and your researcher may not like the answer although I am truly surprised these figures have not been compiled *somewhere.*

The CIC or its equivalent would be found in the documentation generated via administrative processes. For the early period, your information should be contained in the annual reports of the departments responsible for immigration and those reports will be found in the Sessional Papers of the Parliament of Canada. The Department of Agriculture was responsible for immigration from 1869-1892; the Department of the Interior was responsible for immigration from 1892 until 1917 when a Department of Immigration and Colonization was established.

The Sessional Papers were published as a discrete set from 1867-1925. You have to go to the series for each year and, using the Table of Contents/Index, find the SP number for the department you seek and then grab the appropriate volume. The Table of Contents/Index will give you a SP number and should also tell you the volume in which it will be found. From 1925-1929, only the Annual Reports were published (in a discrete series entitled "Departmental Annual Reports" with, however, the same binding and they are usually found on the shelves right after the earlier run of SPs). Thereafter, you need to look at departmental publications. A couple of years ago, I had my gov doc students find 1940s and 1950s immigration stats by country of origin and seem to recall it was an easy task as the department produced them in an annual report of some sort.

Note that many of the SPs have been digitized and can be found in, I think, Canadiana and the Internet Archive but, as the tools of discovery are not really that good, it might actually be easier to use the paper.

I checked the 1896 SPs at random and found the figures for 1895 in Annexes to the Dept. of the Interior’s Annual Report. It is Sessional Paper 13 and the report is a long one. Appended to the report are Annexes, which include reports of immigration agents from the principal ports (I saw one for Halifax and one for Quebec during my 10 minute perusal). Annex No. 2, for instance, is the report of the Halifax Agent of the ‘Dominion Government Immigration Agency’ and I found tables there, most of them broken down by origin (‘English,’ ‘Scotch,’ “Irish,’ and ‘other’).

You should consider, however, that the dates sought will impact upon the search and, possibly, the quality of the information. Prior to 1921, there was one Ireland and it was a part of the UK. Figures from that period tend to break down UK immigration and group the rest into “other.” If you need Irish immigration from, say, 1924, you may find one figure for “Ireland” (what we know as Northern Ireland) and another, either lumped in with “other” or, if you're lucky, found separately under “Ireland” (what we would call today Eire). You may also have problems with the accuracy of the figures as they pertain to intended destination -- attempts seem to have been made to clarify and to classify but a great many immigrants passed through Canada on their way to the US and the Agents made mention of this.