Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links

Genealogy and Family History

What to Search: Topics

Ethno-Cultural and Aboriginal Groups


East Indians

Immigration from the Indian subcontinent to Canada began during the late 1800s. The majority was Sikhs from the Punjab region and most settled in British Columbia. They were often erroneously referred to by government authorities as Hindus. Some were discharged British soldiers; others were labourers who found work in the lumber, railway and mining industries.

In 1891, an increase in the Chinese Head Tax caused a decline in Chinese immigration to Canada, so booking agents began encouraging immigration from India to sell tickets on trans-Pacific ships sailing between Hong Kong and British Columbia. Between 1904 and 1908, over 5,000 Indian men arrived in B.C., with approximately 3,000 of them continuing to the United States.

This early immigration to Canada was met with much hostility in British Columbia. As a result of this, East Indian immigration to Canada decreased dramatically until the 1940s. Only after the First World War did Canada change its position on East Indian immigration and allowed the admission of women and children. However, other restrictions were applied over the years, such as the "continuous voyage" regulation of 1908.

Under pressure from a newly-created independent Indian government, Canada began to change its discriminatory immigration policies after the end of the Second World War. The initial quota for Indian immigrants was 150, but was subsequently raised to 300 a few years later. Gujarati immigration began in the 1950s and was characterized by two main groups: those who came directly from the Indian subcontinent, and often from Gujarat; and those who migrated from East Africa and Britain. Between 1961 and 1971 approximately 2,500 Gujarati immigrants settled in Canada. Most of these early migrants were various skilled professionals. Furthermore, between 1961 and 1982, approximately 32,000 people of East Indian descent arrived in Canada from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

During the 1970s and 1980s large numbers of people of East Indian descent migrated to Canada from the British Caribbean, most notably Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, as a result of economic difficulties existing in those countries. Approximately 90,000 East Indians migrated from the Caribbean between 1962 and 1992. There was, however, earlier migration of students studying and then residing in Canada from Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia, and Jamaica but their numbers were quite small. Most of these migrants settled in the province of Ontario with the vast majority settling in the Toronto region. There have also been smaller numbers of people of East Indian descent who immigrated to Canada from Fiji.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

Immigration Branch: Central Registry Files

  • Emigration of Hindus, RG 76, volumes 386 and 387, file 536999, parts 14, 16, 17 and 19, microfilms C-10281 and C-10282. File includes lists of names of various people who immigrated to Canada, 1922-1949.
  • Asiatics, Orientals (Japanese, Chinese, and East Indians), RG 76, volume 474, file 729921, microfilm C-10410. File includes lists of names for 1907 and 1922.

Other series of Records

Library and Archives Canada also holds other private records regarding Indian families. Consult the Archives Search database using keywords such as a surname or the name of an organization.

Research in Other Institutions

British Library - India Office Records
[www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpregion/asia/india/indiaofficerecords/indiaofficescope/
indiaofficehistoryscope.html]

Families in British India Society
[www.fibis.org/]

National Archives of India
[http://nationalarchives.nic.in/]

The Digital South Asian Library
[http://dsal.uchicago.edu/]

The Guyana / British Guiana Genealogical Society
[www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nyggbs/index.htm]

The National Archives of Trinidad and Tobago
[http://natt.gov.tt/]

Research in Published Sources

Assam & North-East India: Christian Cemeteries and Memorials, 1783-2003 by Eileen Hewson.

History of East Indians in America: The First Half-century Experience of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims by Harold S. Jacoby.

Kacheri Cemetery Kanpur: A Complete List of Inscriptions With Notes on Those Buried There by Zoë Yalland.

Passage from India: Asian Indian immigrants in North America by Joan M. Jensen.

The East Indians in Canada, by Hugh Johnson

The Genealogies and Genealogists of Mithila: A Study of the Panji and Panjikars by Ugra Nath Jha.

The ongoing journey: Indian migration to Canada by Kavita A. Sharma.

Search for other books on East Indians in AMICUS, using authors, titles or subject keywords such as:

  • India Genealogy
  • East Indians
  • East Indian Diaspora

Research Online

Family History in India
[http://web.archive.org/web/20061005045008/members.ozemail.com.au/
~clday/]

Indo-Caribbean Heritage
[www.indocaribbeanheritage.com/content/view/44/53/]

Fiji Genealogy
[http://fijigenealogy.com/]

Indian Cemeteries
[www.indian-cemeteries.org/]

Sri Lanka Genealogy
[www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~lkawgw/]