What records might exist for border crossings and travel in early 1890's between Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA, probably via Michigan? The family members involved were British (some born in the UK, some born in Canada).

The family were present in Canada in the 1881 and 1901 censuses, but not in the 1891. There is evidence at least some of them were in Chicago for at least part of this time (especially 1889-1897). Since there's no 1890 US Census I'm looking for other sources to find out more.

Ancestry's "Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1954" doesn't have any Michigan crossings listed (although they do have some Michigan arrivals for the 1900's, not mentioned on the dataset description).

Are there any other records (shipping, railroad, border control) that would mention people crossing this border?


Are you aware of the article By Way of Canada: U.S. Records of Immigration Across the U.S.-Canadian Border, 1895-1954 (St. Albans Lists) written by Marian L. Smith in 2000; available at http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2000/fall/us-canada-immigration-records-1.html

  • Thanks for the pointer to that useful article. So it looks like there's little if any record for early in the 1890's, as those records start from 1895 (and are the records on Ancestry). Good to know, even if it's negative.
    – Rob Hoare
    Oct 23 '12 at 22:14

Might there be something in the Customs House records?

The National Archives has this record group:


36.3 Records of Customhouses 1745, 1762-1982

36.3.1 Records of customhouses and collection districts
36.3.2 Records relating to passenger arrivals

Also, my experience is that people went back and forth several times, and sometimes the answer to the question you seek can be found in a later passenger list. A story in my husband's family said that not all of the family had stayed in the US, but some of them had returned to England. We also had records passed down in the family that said my husband's grandfather had entered the US on two separate occasions. I wondered when the family had gone back to England, and I spent a couple of years laboriously working out how long they had been in the US from census records and city directories and so on. Then I re-read one of the later passenger lists (an arrival of one of the siblings that had returned), and discovered the answer had been right there under my nose the whole time, under the question "have you ever been in the US before". The period listed there was the same as the one I had plotted out by brute force.

NB: I've just posted a longer answer on a related question:

Immigration from Norway: seeking information about 1871 passage from Quebec to the US

Edited to add: There are regulations concerning immigration in the title Arrivals of alien passengers and immigrants in the United States from 1820 to 1892 (United States. Bureau of Statistics) on Google Books. This and other reports from that period, published from the U.S. Government Printing Office, might provide clues to other records.

Other resources:

Please note that volunteer transcribers are hard at work typing up the rest of these lists of names, so check back often to see what new lists have been added.

University of Minnesota. Immigration History Research Center. The Immigration History Research Center: A Guide to Collections. Compiled and edited by Suzanna Moody and Joel Wurl; foreword by Rudolph J. Vecoli. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991. xxiii, 446 pp., ill., bibliographies. LC call number: Z1361 .E4U58 1991 LH&G; MRR Alc LC control number: 91016262

  • Olive Tree Genealogy has records and reports of Canadian emigration agents. I wonder if there are equivalent records by immigration agents on this side which could be found in archives. Take a look not just for whether her exact records could hold your people, but as examples of the sort of things that can be searched for.

Also, check the National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections for unpublished materials.


Are you sure about your Ancestry comment? I have found several relatives crossing between Windsor & Detroit (both ways). There is also the Passenger lists at ancestry in which some crossing show up. To my knowledge that's the only database with Border crosssings between Canada & the US

  • 2
    Looks like there's two series (at least) at Ancestry. "Detroit Border Crossings and Passenger and Crew Lists, 1905-1957" and "Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1954" (which doesn't mention Michigan in their documented list of border crossings included, but does in fact have Detroit and Port Huron data). Unfortunately neither of these are early enough to cover the main period I'm interested in (mostly the 5 or 6 years before 1895).
    – Rob Hoare
    Oct 23 '12 at 22:20

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