The English to Canada Web Site
The English in Atlantic Canada
The English in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland
Settler's cabin between Halifax and
Windsor as seen from a train in June,
1867. Watercolour over pencil by Juliana
Horatia Ewing. Courtesy Yorkshire Libraries
and information, Wakefield. Ewing Gatty
Two types of English
Atlantic Canada attracted settlers directly from England starting in the 18th century. Joining them in that same century were a considerable number of people with English ancestry, who arrived via the United States. These transplanted Americans were the so-called 'Planters', or colonists from New England, and Loyalists, who came principally from New York and New Jersey. Although their English links were distant, they and their descendents continued to regard themselves as English.
Thus there were two types of English. There were immigrants who came directly from England and Americans, with distant English roots, who arrived from the United States. Both groups played their part in the settlement of Atlantic Canada. Both retained a sense of their Englishness, although their attributes and values were very different.
St. Paul's' Anglican Church, Halifax, built
in 1750 by immigrants from London. Later on
they were joined by New England
merchants and Loyalists from the United States.
Photograph by Geoff Campey
Emigration from the south west of England to all four provinces
Devon and Cornwall in the south west of England supplied each of the four Atlantic provinces with more emigrants than any other part of England, and did so over the longest period.
The timber trade propelled the emigrant stream to Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, while the fishing trade did the same for Newfoundland. People from Devon and Cornwall hopped on the ships that were regularly crossing the Atlantic to collect their timber cargoes, while fishermen drawn mainly from Devon, Dorset, Hampshire and Somerset, who had been brought to Newfoundland on short-term contracts, occasionally opted to become permanent settlers.
Steam ferry boat and rafting timber booms on St. John River
near Fredericton. Watercolour by William Smythe Maynard
Wolfe. Courtesy Library and Archives Canada Acc. No. 1985-3-70.
Yorkshire emigration to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island
One of the most important groups to come to the Maritimes were the 900 people from the North and East Riding of Yorkshire who immigrated in the 1770s to Cumberland County in Nova Scotia and to what later became Westmorland and Albert counties in New Brunswick. Becoming outstanding pioneer farmers they attracted just over 350 followers from Yorkshire in 1817 who settled in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. However, after the 1820's most Yorkshire people chose to settle in Upper Canada.
Tombstones of the early Yorkshire settlers at
Five Points Baptist cemetery, Coverdale
near Salisbury, New Brunswick.
Photograph by Geoff Campey.
Emigration from Norfolk and Suffolk to Prince Edward Island
Along with the rest of southern rural England, Norfolk and Suffolk experienced desperate rural poverty, prompting large-scale emigration during the early 1830s. While Upper and Lower Canada acquired most of the impoverished southerners, many Suffolk and some Norfolk people opted for Prince Edward Island. Some 540 emigrants sailed from Great Yarmouth, East Anglia's principal port, between 1829 and 1834, some being assisted financially by their parishes to emigrate.
The Home Children
Many hundreds of destitute children from Liverpool and Birmingham were sent to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to work as farm labourers in rural areas or as domestic servants in the towns and cities. These so-called 'home children' hoped to experience a better life but many suffered physical hardships and extreme loneliness. Many of the children who were sent to Nova Scotia were treated like commodities in a labour market and in some cases went to industrial premises such as coal mines.
Middlemore boys taking refreshments
during their farming work.
Courtesy Library and Archives Canada, C-086484.
Nova Scotia's Coal Mines
Nova Scotia's mining industry attracted a growing number of English coal miners during the second half of the 19th century with the province's expanding industrialization. The English-owned and managed General Mining Association, which controlled operations at the Albion Mines, near New Glasgow (Pictou County) and the Sydney mines in Cape Breton, recruited its skilled workforce from many parts of England. But, given that most departures were from the port of Liverpool, it is likely that the recruits originated mainly from the north of England.
Newfoundland - the English province
Newfoundland, which relied almost entirely on West Country fishermen to bolster its early immigrant population, ended up as Canada's most English province. The 1991 Census records that a staggering 82 % of the population claimed to have some English ancestry, although most of the influx occurred long before Newfoundland had officially-recorded immigration statistics. The province continues to honour St. George, England's patron saint, by declaring a public holiday on April 23rd (St. George's Day), although this event passes by almost unnoticed in England.
The sea crossing
During the sailing ship era the perils of the sea were an ever-present reality. However, the sturdy ships which crossed the Atlantic to collect timber served their passengers well and they usually got to their destinations safely. Contrary to popular depictions of substandard conditions, emigrants generally sailed in good ships.