Illegal Border Crosses--For Centuries

Totally in the newspaper headlines in 2018 are about illegal border crossings, yet few realized it has been happening for decades, even centuries in the Americas. This is especially true of Canada and the American colonies / states.

An example, Ontario, Canada was created by political refugees coming from the new United States. Those who fled the former American colonies had supported the United Kingdom during the 1770s American Revolution and now needed a new homeland. They were known as United Empire Loyalists. They were welcomed with land and provisions.

If you have found such ancestors on your family tree, don’t be surprised if those same ancestors or for sure their descendants (1 or 2 generations) don’t come back to the United States to re-establish themselves, that happened many times. 

During the 1700s and into the 1800s no records were kept of early cross-border travel. Even in 1900 “most Americans and other people could and did cross the border without anybody paying the slightest attention.” Starting in 1908 and up to 1918, almost 200 border ports of entry were established in Canada with the purpose of inspecting and recording arriving immigrants. These border ports included “inland crossing points as well as ferry ports and ship landings on the lake and coastal areas.” Better records were kept by the 1920s of those crossing the Canadian border.

It was not just people born in the United States going to Canada, but from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, nearly a million French Canadians poured across our northern border to take jobs in New England states’ textile and shoe mills. This movement, part of an even larger mass of Anglo Canadians also moved south, especially after the American Civil War and ended with the Great Depression of the 1930s. 

It doesn’t mean there weren’t any problems, there were. One Massachusetts official called French Canadians “the Chinese of the eastern states” in an 1881 report that described them as “indefatigable workers” who had no interest in assimilating and drove American wages down. They were even spoken of badly at home in Quebec, where religious and political leaders sent emissaries to woo them back.

Online from the Canadian Library and Archives are databases on border crossings. See what ancestors you might have who either went to Canada or those who came to the United States from Canada.  

Photos: USA-Canada Border Crossings.

Related Blogs:

Canadian Gazette

Veterans – Canada

Children as Immigrants

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