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Fall 2003
A Publication of the St. Louis Public Library

Vol. 3  No. 4


Canada was originally colonized by two groups: the French and the English. Both countries were eager to gain control over as much of the New World as they could, if only to keep the Spanish away. French settlement continues to have a profound impact on Canada and Missouri. This is due, in part, to French patterns of colonization and in part to the beaver. Although Canada today is part of the British Commonwealth, it was French settlement in Canada that impacted Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri. These areas were part of New France, stretching from Newfoundland to the Illinois country, with French settlements still farther west at Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis. These settlements, covering half a continent, provided a network of culture and language, as well as links in the extremely valuable fur trade. The first French settlement was on the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1608.

Although English settlers tended to bring women and children and create farming communities, the French focused on trading with Native Americans. This created a different culture and encouraged intermarriage with Native Americans, many of whom converted to Catholicism. French settlement followed trade networks as they expanded, bringing contact with Native Americans from farther and farther west. By the mid-1700s, French traders and their families were beginning to arrive in New France, to western Illinois and eastern Missouri.

Even after the heyday of the fur trade, Canada has continued to be a pathway for people who ultimately settled in the U.S. At the end of the 19th century it was noted that about 40% of people arriving in Canada were going on to the U.S. This was due, in part, because Canadian steamship and rail companies offered low fares to immigrants, and in part because the 1891 immigration restrictions imposed by the U.S. limited the number of people from certain countries entering the U.S. By going through Canada, they paid lower fares and could sometimes avoid immigration quotas by living in Canada for a few years before moving on to the United States.

The St. Albans Passenger Lists are an important resource for those tracing immigration through Canada. While the name refers to the border crossing at St. Albans, Vermont, the lists cover the entire United States-Canadian border for the period 1895-1917. For the years 1918-1954, the St. Albans Lists cover border stations from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Dakota/Montana state line. Records of border stations west of that point were filed in Seattle. The lists cover only immigrants, not Canadian citizens crossing into the United States. Information includes name, age, exact place of birth, last residence, occupation, nearest relative in home country with address, nearest relative in destination city and address, date, ship and port of arrival, date and place of border crossing, and physical description. The St. Albans Lists are available on microfilm from the National Archives or LDS Family History Centers.

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