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The first Italian to land in Canada was the explorer Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) in 1497. However, the first settlement of Italians in Canada did not occur until 1665 when soldiers from areas of what is now present-day Italy were recruited by the French army to be part of their Carignan-Salières Regiment. Italians also served with the British military in Lower Canada in the de Meuron and de Watteville Regiments during the War of 1812. When the regiments were disbanded in 1816, some of soldiers stayed in Canada, settling in Ontario and the Eastern Townships in Quebec.

Immigration from Italy did not increase substantially until after the Italian Risorgimento, the unification of modern Italy, in 1870. Canada attracted migrant labourers and skilled tradesmen in the railway, mining and construction industries, but by the early 1900s, more and more of the temporary migrants chose to stay permanently rather than return to Italy. They were joined by farmers, artisans and merchants. Italian business districts developed in most urban centres, especially in Montreal and Toronto.

The second large wave of Italian immigration occurred in the years following the Second World War until the mid-1970s. The majority of these immigrants entered Canada through Halifax at Pier 21.

There are approximately 1.4 million Canadians of Italian descent today. Many of these people are descendents from the recent Italian immigration in the post-Second World War era which saw Southern Italy, with the exception of Sardina, as a major source of immigration. Networks that linked villages across Italy to communities in various Canadian cities eased this transition to Canada. More than ninety percent of Italians that entered Canada between 1946 and 1967 were sponsored by relatives in Canada. The majority of these immigrants settled in large and medium-size cities across Canada.

It is important to note when researching Italian Canadian genealogy that many Italians in the1800s and early 1900s arrived in Canada via New York City.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Pledge of Loyalty of the Order of Italo-Canadians and Italians of Montreal (RG 2-D vol. 5710)

The fonds consists of a pledge of loyalty of the Order of Italo-Canadians and Italians of Montreal in supporting the initiative of the Italian Societies Il Giornale Italo-Canadese, in their donation of an ambulance to the Red Cross. The item is a 309 page bound volume containing signatures and amounts pledged.

Italian Society, Principe di Piemonte (MG 28-V134)

The fonds contains an attendance register and membership lists of the Society of Italians from the Piedmont region of Italy who settled in Thunder Bay. Records date from approximately 1943 to 1973.

Royal Commission to Inquire into the Immigration of Italian Labourers to Montreal and the Alleged Fraudulent Practices of Employment Agencies fonds (RG 33-99, Vol. 1, File 7)

This fonds contains a list of names and addresses of many Italians living in Canada, mostly in the Montreal region, between 1903 and 1905. Microfilm T-3473.

Immigration Branch, Central Registry Files (RG 76)

  • Recruiting of friendly Italians in United States for the purpose of political propaganda in British Isles, RG 76 IA1, volume 467, file 701220. Microfilm C-10405.

  • Canadian Travel Agency, Admission of Italian Farmers, Montreal, 1949-1951, RG 76 IA1, volume 669, file C39309. Microfilms C-10602 and C-10603.

  • Admission of Italian farm labourers, 1950-1951 (400 names), RG 76 IA1, volume 674, file C92655. Microfilm C-10677.

Other Series of Records

Library and Archives Canada also holds other private records regarding Italian Canadians containing both textual documents and images. Consult the Archives Search database using keywords such as a surname or an organization name.

Research in Other Institutions

Italian Genealogical Society of America []

Italy's archivi di stato []

POINT (Pursuing our Italian Names Together) []

Italian Cultural Insitute in Toronto []

Research in Published Sources

The Italians in Canada by Bruno Ramirez.

A Genealogist's guide to discovering your Italian Ancestors: How to Find and Record your Unique Heritage by Lynn Nelson.

Finding your Italian ancestors: a beginner's guide by Suzanne Russo Adams.

Finding Your Italian Ancestors by Grant Karich.

Italians in Ontario edited by Franc Sturino and John Zucchi.

Italians to America: lists of passengers arriving at U.S. ports, 1880-1899 edited by Ira A. Glazier and P. William Filby.

They Worked Together and Prayed Together: Italians in Haliburton County by Leopolda L. Dobrzensky.

Consult our Bibliography for further information on this topic.

Search for other books on Italy and Italians in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject keywords such as:

  • Sicilian
  • Sicily genealogy
  • Italian genealogy
  • Italian Canadians

Research Online

Italian Genealogy and Heraldry Society of Canada

Italian Roots

Italy Gen Web

Italian Genealogy

Italian Genealogy Group