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Canada, Irving Name Distribution

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Date: 3 Oct 2021 [unknown]
Location: Canadamap
Surname/tag: Irving
Profile manager: Bill Irving private message [send private message]
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This profile is part of the Irving Name Study.

Canadian Genealogical sources start about 1869.


Irving name distribution within Genealogical sources

Genealogy Source Wikitree Family Search Findagrave
  • No data is available from Findagrave for Canada.

Data last Updated 1 October 2021 by Bill Irving (IRVING-332).

Irving name distribution within Canadian Povinces.

Genealogy Source Family Search
Bristish Columbia10,371
New Brunswick13,700
New Foundland3,667
Northwest Territories3,738
Nova Scotia11,639
Prince Edward Island5,207
Yukon Territory3,499
  • Wikitree records do not show under Provinces.

Canadian Census Records

Volume 4 of the Statistics of Canada has a very good introduction to the Census of Canada which first started in 1665. Use this website to access it.

Wayback Machine (

To search the Canadian Census use:

Censuses - Library and Archives Canada (

Irving name distribution within Canadian Census Recrds.

Province 1825 1831 1842 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1916 1921
Bristish Columbia------365669-169
New Brunswick---377498138148175-177
Northwest Territories------31416-0
Nova Scotia---4169512110687-182
Prince Edward Island----15-149124132-82
Yukon Territory-----------

Data last Updated 14 February 2023 by Bill Irving (IRVING-332).

Historical Overview of Immigration to Canada

Colonial Era Immigrants

Historians recognize two distinct colonial periods in Canada's past:

  • New France, from 1604 to 1763
  • British North America from 1670 to 1873.

Within New France there were two main population groups, one in the Maritimes, then known as Acadia, and the other in Quebec, whose members lived almost exclusively along the St. Lawrence, Richelieu and Saguenay rivers. Both peoples of French origin relied on the crops, livestock and fisheries they established themselves.

New France fell to British arms in the 1760s, cutting off immigration from the homeland. As a result, the birth rate had to account for population increases among French Canadians. Immediately after the Conquest, the surge into Quebec of merchants and farmers from New England was large enough only to fill gaps left by those who had returned to France; the economy had no real slack or potential to absorb many more settlers. Consequently, the population of Canada remained static for a generation. The main action was to the south, where the American colonists, freed from the need for Britain's protection from France began resisting the restrictive mercantile system Britain imposed upon all its colonies. Eventually, these grievances and others led to a war for independence. When peace was concluded in 1783, the immediate effect on Canada was a wave of migrants north into the remaining British colonies. Known as United Empire Loyalists, they settled in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. They numbered 42,000 in all, and had a dramatic effect on Canada's linguistic, religious and commercial balances.

Filling in the East

Until the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, very few people emigrated to the North American colonies from Britain. Moreover, other new lands - Australia, India, New Zealand, the Caribbean, and the United States - had their own calls on Britons wanting to migrate overseas.

Another factor that slowed outflows from England, Scotland, Ireland or Wales was wartime prosperity at home. But once peace came, employment and trade both sharply declined, and economic depression occurred. Since investment and jobs in Canada were still bound very tightly to the old mercantile economy, there was very little opportunity for newcomers. This dragged on into the 1830s, until European commerce recovered, and when Britain's economy transformed from merchant to industrial capitalism.

Over the next century, a newly emerging world economy would bring millions of immigrants to Canada, and help to fill its lands with farms, railways, towns and cities. Britain would be the primary source of new settlers.

Fundamental and major changes to agriculture in all its regions displaced hundreds of thousands of farm families. Efficiencies in crop and livestock raising reduced the need for farm hands. Huge areas were put into pasture for sheep and cattle, their wool or meat needed for textile factories and workers. This drove thousands more off the land. Those who could not be absorbed into coal mining, transportation, manufacturing or other jobs of the industrial revolution either became paupers or had to emigrate. Then there was occasional catastrophe, like the massive Irish potato crop failures of the mid-1840s, which forced tens of thousands out of Ireland and into other lands such as Canada.

Meanwhile, in Canada, an economy based chiefly upon staple trades - fish, furs, wheat, lumber - had emerged in the 1830s. Those who were already here devoured the prime farmlands of all the colonies, and in fact, colonial land policy had become a major cause for concern, along with political freedoms and the tensions between English and French blocs. Over the next generation, these and other issues were ironed out to the point where the main colonies joined together in a national federation, their regional economies were well integrated with those of Britain and the United States, and there were strong movements to increase the country's population, acquire the vast western territories still controlled by the Crown through a British fur trading company, and strengthen the new manufacturers in Montreal and Toronto.

Opening the West

Once the best farmlands in Quebec and Ontario were fully cultivated, farmers in eastern Canada took an interest in the "northwest". Settlement of western Canada became a national priority.

Elected in 1873, the Conservatives offered a threefold approach to prosperity:

  • a tariff would protect the rising manufacturing sector
  • the transcontinental railway would be completed
  • homestead lands would be made available on a very large scale in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Yet, it took another party, the Liberals in 1896, to initiate the steps needed to bring settlers in. Under Minister of the Interior, Clifford Sifton, the apparatus for recruiting and settling immigrants on a scale that could rapidly fill those lands was put into play.

Over the next nineteen years, three million immigrants from the United States, Britain and other European countries arrived in Canada, half of whom moved to the Prairies. Source:

Historical Overview of Immigration to Canada

Canada: Immigration, 1811 - 2000

Year Immigration numbers
1836 - 1840105,00
1846 - 1850250,000
1851 - 1855158,000
1856 - 186054,000
1861 - 186596,700
1866 - 187078,200
1871 - 1875181,300
1876 - 1880161,500
1881 - 1885479,100
1886 - 1890409,200
1891 - 1895182,400
1896 - 1900 56,000
1901 - 1905557,300
1906 - 19101,087,900
1911 - 19151,295,200
1916 - 1920421,200
1921 - 1925498,700
1926 - 1930731,500
1931 - 193586,300
1936 - 194072,200
1941 - 194560,900
1946 - 1950430,300
1951 - 1955791,900
1956 - 1960783,000
1961 - 1965498,900
1966 - 1970910,900
1971 - 1975834,500
1976 - 1980608,800
1981 - 1985496,600
1986 - 1990821,000
1991 - 19951,181,400
1996 - 20001,033,200

Data last Updated 1 October 2021 by Bill Irving (IRVING-332).

Immigration legislation has evolved and changed over time, shaped by the shifting social, political and economic climate, as well as dominant beliefs about race, desirability and integration. The open-door approach of the late nineteenth century gradually gave way to more restrictive measures that discriminated on the basis of race, ethnicity and national origin. Overt discrimination remained a part of Canadian immigration policy until the latter half of the twentieth century, when skill and education became the main criteria for determining entrance into Canada. Since Canada’s adoption of multiculturalism as an official policy in 1971, the cultural diversity of Canadian immigrants has been promoted as a key component of Canadian identity. Immigration legislation is ultimately a reflection of society’s beliefs and attitudes, revealing Canada’s history of inclusion and exclusion.

Immigration Act, 1869

Canada’s first immigration policy following Confederation contained few restrictions on immigration. The Immigration Act of 1869 primarily focused on ensuring the safety of immigrants during their passage to Canada and protecting them from exploitation upon their arrival. Prime Minister John A. Macdonald hoped an open immigration policy would encourage the settlement of the West; however, large-scale immigration failed to become a reality as the rate of emigration remained well above the rate of immigration throughout the late nineteenth century.


Scotish Large-scale migration

Bumsted (1981) notes that between 1760 and 1860, millions of people emigrated from Great Britain. Before 1815, emigration was discouraged, but emigration from Scotland to the Maritime Provinces constituted one of the principal components of the exodus; by 1815 Scots formed one of the three major ethnic groups there. Most of the emigrants were unskilled Gaelic-speaking farmers, who gathered in isolated communities. The Maritimes attracted them because of the opportunity there to be left alone to pursue the traditional way of life.

A large group of Ulster Scots, many of whom had first settled in New Hampshire, moved to Truro, Nova Scotia in 1761. In 1772 a wave of Gaels began to arrive in Prince Edward Island, and in 1773 the ship Hector brought 200 Gaels to Pictou, beginning a new stream of Highland emigration — the town's slogan is "The Birthplace of New Scotland". At the end of the 18th century, Cape Breton Island had become a centre of Scottish Gaelic settlement, where only Scottish Gaelic was spoken.

A number of Scottish Loyalists who had fled the United States in 1783 arrived in Glengarry County (in eastern Ontario) and Nova Scotia. In 1803, Lord Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk, who was sympathetic to the plight of the dispossessed crofters (tenant farmers in the Highlands), brought 800 colonists to Prince Edward Island. In 1811, he founded the Red River Colony as a Scottish colonization project on an area of 300,000 square kilometres (120,000 sq mi) in what would later be the province of Manitoba — land that was granted by the Hudson's Bay Company, in what is referred to as the Selkirk Concession.

Prince Edward Island (PEI) was also heavily influenced by Scottish Gaelic settlers. One prominent settler in PEI was John MacDonald of Glenaladale, who conceived the idea of sending Gaels to Nova Scotia on a grand scale after Culloden. The name Macdonald still dominates on the island, which received a large influx of settlers, predominantly Catholics from the Highlands, in the late 18th century. Another large group of Gaels arrived in 1803. This migration, primarily from the Isle of Skye, was organized by the Earl of Selkirk. New Brunswick became the home for many Scots. In 1761, a Highland regiment garrisoned Fort Frederick. The surrounding lands surveyed by Captain Bruce in 1762 attracted many Scottish traders when William Davidson of Caithness arrived to settle two years later. Their numbers were swelled by the arrival of thousands of loyalists of Scottish origin both during and after the American Revolution.

One of the New Brunswick and Canada's most famous regiments was "The King's First American Regiment" founded in 1776. It was composed mostly of Highlanders, many of whom fought with their traditional kilts to the sound of the pipes. The regiment distinguished itself when it defeated Washington's forces at the Battle of Brandywine. When it disbanded after the War, most of its members settled in New Brunswick. A continual influx of immigrants from Scotland and Ulster meant that by 1843 there were over 30,000 Scots in New Brunswick.

Troubles back in Scotland in the 18th and 19th centuries generated a steady flow of emigrants. Some sought political asylum following the failed Jacobite risings in 1688, 1715 and 1745. The Gàidhealtachd was traditionally Catholic, and many Gaels came to Canada after facing eviction for their religious beliefs.

Those immigrants who arrived after 1759 were mainly Highland farmers who had been forced off their crofts (rented land) during the Highland and Lowland Clearances to make way for sheep grazing due to the British Agricultural Revolution.

Others came as a result of famine. In 1846, potato crops were blighted by the same fungal disease responsible for the Great Irish Famine, and most Highland crofters were very dependent on potatoes as a source of food. Crofters were expected to work in appalling conditions, and although some landlords worked to lessen the effects of the famine on their tenants, many landlords simply resorted to eviction. In particular, John Gordon of Cluny became the target of criticism in newspapers when many of his crofters were reduced to living on the streets of Inverness. Gordon resorted to hiring a fleet of ships and forcibly transporting his Hebridean crofters to Canada, where they were conveniently abandoned on Canadian authorities. Some more sympathetic landlords supplied a free passage to what was hoped to be a better life. Crop failures continued into the 1850s and famine relief programmes became semi-permanent operations. During the ten years following 1847, from throughout the Highlands, over 16,000 crofters were shipped overseas to Canada and Australia.


UK export children

As a labour source The practice of sending poor or orphaned children to English and later British settler colonies, to help alleviate the shortage of labour, began in 1618, with the rounding-up and transportation of one hundred English vagrant children to the Virginia Colony. In the 18th century, labour shortages in the overseas colonies also encouraged the transportation of children for work in the Americas, and large numbers of children were forced to migrate, most of them from Scotland. This practice continued until it was exposed in 1757, following a civil action against Aberdeen merchants and magistrates for their involvement in the trade.

As social reform The Children's Friend Society was founded in London in 1830 as "The Society for the Suppression of Juvenile Vagrancy through the reformation and emigration of children". In 1832, the first group of children was sent to the Cape Colony in South Africa and the Swan River Colony in Australia, and in August 1833, 230 children were shipped to Toronto and New Brunswick in Canada.

The main pioneers of child migration in the nineteenth century were the Scottish Evangelical Christian Annie MacPherson, her sister Louisa Birt, and Londoner Maria Rye. Whilst working with poor children in London in the late 1860s, MacPherson was appalled by the child slavery of the matchbox industry and resolved to devote her life to these children. In 1870 she bought a large workshop and turned it into the "Home of Industry", where poor children could work and be fed and educated. She later became convinced that the real solution for these children lay in emigration to a country of opportunity and started an emigration fund. In the first year of the fund's operation, 500 children, trained in the London homes, were shipped to Canada. MacPherson opened distribution homes in Canada in the towns of Belleville and Galt in Ontario and persuaded her sister, Louisa, to open a third home in the village of Knowlton, seventy miles from Montreal. This was the beginning of a massive operation which sought to find homes and careers for 14,000 of Britain's needy children.

Maria Rye also worked amongst the poor in London and had arrived in Ontario with 68 children (50 of whom were from Liverpool) some months earlier than MacPherson, with the blessing of the Archbishop of Canterbury and The Times newspaper. Rye, who had been placing women emigrants in Canada since 1867, opened her home at Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1869, and by the turn of the century had settled some 5,000 children, mostly girls, in Ontario.

In 1909, South African-born Kingsley Fairbridge founded the "Society for the Furtherance of Child Emigration to the Colonies" which was later incorporated as the Child Emigration Society. The purpose of the society, which later became the Fairbridge Foundation, was to educate orphaned and neglected children and train them in farming practices at farm schools located throughout the British Empire. Fairbridge emigrated to Australia in 1912, where his ideas received support and encouragement. According to the British House of Commons Child Migrant's Trust Report, "it is estimated that some 150,000 children were dispatched over a period of 350 years—the earliest recorded child migrants left Britain for the Virginia Colony in 1618, and the process did not finally end until the late 1960s." It was widely believed by contemporaries that all of these children were orphans, but it is now known that most had living parents, some of whom had no idea of the fate of their children after they were left in care homes, and some led to believe that their children had been adopted somewhere in Britain.

Child emigration was largely suspended for economic reasons during the Great Depression of the 1930s, but was not completely terminated until the 1970s.

As they were compulsorily shipped out of Britain, many of the children were deceived into believing their parents were dead, and that a more abundant life awaited them.Some were exploited as cheap agricultural labour, or denied proper shelter and education. It was common for Home Children to run away, sometimes finding a caring family or better working conditions.




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