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Canada's rich history is a tale steeped with tradition, intrigue, heartbreak and success — much like the storied histories of Canadian families from coast to coast. Get to know the history of this great country in the years leading up to Confederation, from First Nations culture, to European explorers to the settlements that would become the great Canadian cities of today.

To search our NEW Canadian Pre-Confederation records, found in our Canadian Military database, click here.

Canada’s First Nations

Many British and French Canadian fur traders married First Nations and Inuit women-children from these inter-cultural relationships are known as Métis.

Canada's First People arrived anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 years ago. Tribes could be found from coast to coast, and up to 50 distinct languages and even more dialects were spoken.

Canada's Inuit crossed over the Bering land bridge from Siberia 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. They hunted whale, seal and caribou, and shared resources with fellow tribesmen.

Early Arrivals

John Cabot reached Canada's east coast in 1497. He returned to England with tales of a new land rich with cod and other resources.

In 1534, Jacques Cartier
arrived in New Brunswick and immediately claimed the land in the name of France — this upset local Natives who felt this land was theirs.

In 1608, Samuel de Champlain
and 28 colonists built Canada's first permanent settlement at modern day Quebec City — they were the original habitants.

Britain & France At War

British Troops stormed the French settlements along the Ohio River in 1753 – the Seven Years’ War over the control of Canada had begun.

In 1759, Quebec City fell to the British in a fifteen minute bloody battle on the Plains of Abraham.

The Final Battle of the Seven Years' War took place at Signal Hill, Newfoundland and concluded with a British victory in the quest for Canada.
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Military records

Canada vs. America

In 1775, the onset of the American Revolutionary War, King George III proclaimed that all British colonies should attempt to stop the American's endeavours at expanding.

In that same year, American troops captured Montreal and laid siege to Quebec City — only to fail and be driven out of Canada.

Hoping once again to expand into Canada, the Americans declared war on Britain in 1812. After 32 months of battle on land and sea, the war ended with both parties claiming victory.
Explore our War of 1812 records.

The Daily Grind

Early settlers worked closely to ensure the success of their new communities through church activities, road construction initiatives, and helping each other build their homes.

Pioneer women worked tirelessly for their family's material and cultural betterment, while men worked farmland, fisheries, mines and in the fur trade.

Harsh winters meant hearty, but monotonous meals — many pioneer diaries note having pork and potatoes 3 times daily for weeks on end during the cold months.

In early colonies children were expected to contribute to the family income at age 7 — this could have meant helping in the home or learning a trade from a member of the community.

A Nation is Born

In September 1864
New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
and P.E.I. arranged a meeting in Charlottetown to discuss forming a Maritime Union. Ontario and Quebec, known as the province of Canada, attended the meeting as silent observers.

In October 1864 delegates from the Province of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, met in Quebec City to discuss forming a confederation and any terms required.

In October 1864 16 delegates travelled to London to meet with Queen Victoria in the hopes that Parliament would pass what they would now call the British North America Act.

On July 1st, 1867
The Dominion of Canada was born.

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