There are strong  historical links through fishing with Nova Scotia ( New Scotland) and Newfoundland which was recognised by King James VI in 1625 when the Scottish colony was first established. But the majority of Scottish emigration to North America  was in the 18th century to the thirteen colonies along the Atlantic seaboard. Canada was generally an afterthought and for sufficient reason, it was easier to farm in the southern ( American ) colonies where cheap land was being made available to migrants on the new frontiers.  Apart from climate, there were the continuing differences with France over ownership of the colony.

A large number of emigrants went from Islay to New York State and from the Highlands and Ireland to Nova Scotia. This latter movement is particularly well documented. From Perthshire, settlement was in PEI, predominantly of small farms. Emigration from South Uist and Benbecula was the result of Catholic persecution there; and that from the Highlands was due to loss of land from rising taxes. Greater security was to be had in PEI with opportunity to buy and be your own master.

The migration of Empire Loyalists from the USA (who mere mainly Scottish) in 1783 paved the way for Scottish emigration to Canada which peaked in the period after the War of 1812 and 1865 when formal record keeping came along. By the late 19th century Scots were well established in Canada, occupying key positions in government, owned the largest banks and insurance companies, were patrons of educational institutions and as entrepreneurs engaged in major operations. Although outnumbered they had an affinity for Canada.

The Talbot and Selkirk Settlements

The personal initiatives of two individuals stand out in the movement and settlement of emigrants from Britain to Canada in the early 1800s, those of Thomas Talbot and Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk. Talbot's work helped settle a critical part of southern Ontario between Amherstburg and Niagara on what was then and is now known as the "Talbot Road", a route which proved crucial in the defence of Canada following the American invasion of 1812-1814. In return for grants of land and tools, emigrants swore allegiance to the Crown, paid taxes, and agreed to maintain their part of the Talbot Road which ran across the front of their property, while in return, Talbot gained huge land holdings for his personal estate.

The Selkirk Settlements were principally in the Red River area of Manitoba in an area which also would prove critical to the future history and economy of Canada. Selkirk's efforts were pivotal in opening the west of Canada to large-scale settlement. The work of both men took place in the early 1800s, both were involved in inducing emigrants to come to Canada then settling them once they arrived, a novel scheme at the time given the haphazard approaches to emigration which had been the order of the day.

Buchanan and Robinson Settlements

There were other agents engaged in the settlement of emigrants especially from Ireland. These organisers were Buchanan, and Robinson. Buchanan was active between1817 and 1818 and placed his protestant settlers in the area north of Port Hope. In ` Irish Emigration and Canadian Settlement " by Cecil Houston & William Smyth the Peter Robinson migration is mentioned and there is a sketch map of the settlements in Canada 1817-25. The book ,p205, says

" In 1823 Peter Robinson took 571 Cork people to settle on military reserves in the Rideau country and two years later he repeated the project with 2050 people to the Emily and Douro districts

It is interesting that in the book Robinsons parties are referred to as Catholic.The reference source is given in the appendices as Wendy Cameron`s " Selecting Peter Robinsons Irish Emigrants " Histoire sociale/social history, 1978 (p) 29-46.

A table of the distribution of Orr in Canada is here.


Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material