There has always been a heavy flow of families moving between the United States and Canada because of the vast open border between the two countries. It is estimated that one-third of the citizens of New York, Michigan, Wisconsin and the other Northern states have Canadian ancestors.
Many American genealogists discover a Canada link during their research, as many ancestors settled first in Canada and then came to this country. The reverse is often true, also.
Among the settlers of Canada were the Scots and Irish. In 1851, 58,000 Highland Scots sailed for North America. Most of those who landed in Canada settled in Nova Scotia and Ontario. As early as the 1770s the Irish went to Canada, with about 20,000 settling in Montreal and Quebec.
The Germans tended to settle in four areas of Canada: Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, and three areas of Ontario: the Niagara Peninsula, the Kitchener area, and the townships around Pembroke. German settlers first entered the province of Ontario from Pennsylvania in 1786. In 1803, when land in Pennsylvania became too expensive for many, a major move to Canada was organized and about 100,000 acres were purchased with settlers pouring in from Franklin, Lancaster, Montgomery and Bucks counties of Pennsylvania. Many of these were descendants of Swiss-German Mennonites.
Along the north shore of Lake Ontario was a settlement of Hessians--the German mercenaries who served with the British army during the Revolutionary War. They fled to Canada with the United Empire Loyalists when the British were defeated, and received land grants in Canada. By the 1830s Germans were arriving from all parts of Europe.
Other groups in substantial numbers made Canada their home: The United Empire Loyalists (about 40,000), the Huguenots, Ukrainians and the Jews.
The greatest obstacle in the search for Canadian ancestors is the scarcity of records of immigration and the almost total absence of passenger lists. The keeping of regular passenger lists in Canada did not begin until 1855, although a few earlier records are available in the National Archives in Ottawa, and in some of the Provincial Archives. In most cases it is necessary to know the name of the ship, the port of arrival and the date--all things that a genealogist is searching for in the first place.
Records are available of various organized parties of immigrants, and these can be found in the Provincial Archives in your area of interest. Many immigrants landed at such U.S. ports as New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, Hartford, Conn., Wilmington, Del., Bangor and Kennebunk (Maine), and Marblehead, Mass. These lists are in the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and date mostly from 1820 to 1945.
Many Canadian records have been filmed by the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library in Salt Lake City and are available through its branch library interlibrary loan system.
"In Search of Your Canadian Roots" by Angus Baxter is an outstanding new book that concentrates exclusively on the sources available for research within Canada. It includes a province-by-province survey of genealogical sources, a step-by-step guide to the records and record repositories in each of the 11 provinces and the Yukon and Northwest territories. It is an outstanding guidebook, available from Genealogical Publishing Co., 1001 N. Calvert, Baltimore, Md. 21202 for $17.45.