Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wisdom Wednesday: Canadian Museum of Immigration/Pier 21 - O/T

With Ellis Island closed because of damage from last fall’s storm Sandy, I headed to Halifax, Nova Scotia to visit the immigration museum of our northern neighbors. Well more truthfully, I included the museum on my vacation in Atlantic Canada.

My husband was born in Calgary, Alberta so he was enthusiastic about this stop. His grandfather who arrived in Canada at Halifax in 1912 did not enter through the building at Pier 21 which houses this museum. It was not in use until 1928.  
A video of a train journey across Canada to Alberta with comments from people who had taken the trip was mentioned in some of the promotional material. In his family, that trek was taken by his parents and grandparents plus an assortment of other relatives. HOWEVER, the video has changed. Now there are four or five small booths where you can watch oral histories given by people who came in at Pier 21.  The new video was the highlight of our visit, powerfully showing the activities at the pier over its 43 years of use.

Between 1928 and 1971, Pier 21 was a landing point for more than a million immigrants arriving in Canada by ship. The brick immigration center on Pier 21 housed customs and immigration and also a nursery, hospital, dormitories, kitchen and dining hall, as well as a rail connection. There is a small model of the layout in one of the exhibits. In another exhibit, I found a picture of four ships on which members of his family arrived.
During World War II, Pier 21 also served a role for the Canadian Armed Forces as the departure and reentry point for more than half a million troops. After the war, refugees and war brides entered through this building.

Pier 21 is the only surviving immigration pier in Canada and was a historic site before being officially appointed the national Canadian Museum of Immigration in February 2011.
There is a free Scotiabank Family History Centre on the first floor of the museum. (The museum exhibits and multimedia presentation have an entrance fee.) A word about the Family History Center - there are a few computers with www.ancestry.ca. The staff seems very knowledgeable about finding passengers on ships. The person I worked with found a grandfather whose name was very misspelled, and it was fun to watch him use *** and other tricks to tease out the right record. I have to say this is probably not the place for serious research in the other areas of genealogy.

1055 Marginal Road
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4P6
(902) 425-7770 or toll free 1-855-526-4721

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