Prince Edward Island Cultural Groups

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Library and Archives Canada[edit | edit source]

First of all, realize that members of different ethnicities, nationalities, and cultures are recorded in all the major record groups used for genealogy in Prince Edward Island. For some groups additional specific records were created by the government and churches. For many groups, information has been published by interested authors detailing their histories and identities. For each group below, in addition to a brief history, there is a link to an article prepared by the Library and Archives Canada detailing available records and publications.

According to the 2016 Canadian Census of the 139,690 people who self-identified with an ethnic origin, 98,615 were of European origins and 85,145 chose British Isles Origins. The largest ethnic group consists of people of Scottish descent (36%), followed by English (29%), Irish (28%), French (21%), German (5%), and Dutch (3%) descent. Prince Edward Island's population is largely white; there are few visible minorities.[1]

Acadians (French)[edit | edit source]

  • The Drouin Collection Database, a collection of parish registers (baptisms, marriages and burials) from Quebec, Acadia, as well as parts of Ontario, New Brunswick and the United States. The collection also contains Acadian censuses from 1673 to 1784. ($)
  • The Acadia Families Tool This tool contains family files based on the Acadian parish records mentioned above. In total, the tool contains 96,000 family files from 1621 to 1849 and is equipped with a search engine which allows searches by last name, first name, date and parish. In addition, the original records are attached to the family files, allowing the information contained in them to be viewed and verified.($)
This list of approximately 300 family names was drawn from parish records, census records and other documents from Acadia/Nova Scotia in the first half of the 18th century. All Acadian civilian families known to have lived in the colony at any time between 1700 and 1755 are included. This list does not include the families of the French garrison which served in Acadia.


Reading French Records[edit | edit source]


The term "Acadians" refers to immigrants from France in the early 1600s who settled in the colony of Acadia, in what are now the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

The area comprising today's New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island was once known as Arcadie. Eventually the name became Acadia. The area was first settled by the French in 1605. The territory passed back and forth from French to English hands many times. In accordance with the Treaty of Utrecht, France ceded the Nova Scotia peninsula and the New Brunswick area to England. England did little to settle the area and the French-speaking Acadians were the majority until about 1750. France still retained Ile Saint-Jean (now Prince Edward Island) and Cape Breton Island (now part of Nova Scotia).

A large number of the Acadians were deported by the English from 1755 to 1760. Many came to Prince Edward Island causing the population to rise near 5,000. The Island was essentially a refugee camp. In 1759, the Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island areas fell to Britain and the settlers were deported to France.

In 1769, a separate province, Saint John's Island (Ile St. Jean), was established. It became Prince Edward Island in 1799. In 1784, the New Brunswick area also became a separate province. About this time many Acadians who had been deported agreed to sign the oath of allegiance to England and were allowed to take up lands in the Maritime Provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island). They worked primarily as farmers and fishermen. For the most part, they continued to speak French and uphold their Roman Catholic faith.[2]

Black Canadians[edit | edit source]

There has been a steady stream of migration of Black people into Canada via Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the United States since the 17th century. The first recorded Black person to arrive in Canada was an African named Mathieu de Coste who arrived in 1608 to serve as interpreter of the Mi'kmaq language to the governor of Acadia. A few thousand Africans arrived in Canada in the 17th and 18th centuries as slaves. After the American Revolution, the British gave passage to over 3000 slaves and free Blacks who had remained loyal to the Crown. These Black Loyalists joined the many other United Empire Loyalists in settlements across the Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. Other Black slaves joined their Loyalist slave owners when they migrated to Canada.[3]

British[edit | edit source]

(See Loyalists}

Chinese Immigration[edit | edit source]

Since the province started recruiting skilled and affluent immigrants through its Provincial Nominee Program in 2001, upward of 10,000 newcomers have called P.E.I. home. But while the province of just 143,200 is undergoing a metamorphosis at the behest of immigration generally, it is immigration from a land of nearly 1,337,000,000 in particular that is driving the novel shift. China has been the chief source of immigration to P.E.I., with nearly 2,400 newcomers arriving between 2006 and 2009 alone, according to the province’s Population Secretariat. Most of those newcomers at least initially settled in Charlottetown, where the population was just 32,000 at the time of the census in 2006.[4]

According to the PEI government, the province has attracted 2,776 immigrants in 2014-2017, with Chinese expatriates now forming two per cent of the Island’s population.[5]

First Nations[edit | edit source]


Prince Edward Island was first inhabited by the Mi'kmaq people, who have lived in the region for several thousand years. They named the island Epekwitk (the pronunciation of which was changed to Abegweit by the Europeans), meaning "cradle on the waves." The Mi'kmaq mythology is that the island was formed by the Great Spirit placing some dark red clay which was shaped as a crescent on the pink Waters. [6]

Abegweit is a Mi'kmaq First Nations band government on Prince Edward Island, Canada. The Abegweit First Nation comprises the following reserves:

Morell 2, located in Green Meadows. (Population: 35)
Rocky Point 3, located in Rocky Point. (Population: 50)
Scotchfort 4, located in Scotchfort.


The Miꞌkmaq are a First Nations people of the Northeastern Woodlands, indigenous to the areas now known as Canada's Atlantic Provinces and the Gaspé Peninsula of Quebec as well as the northeastern region of Maine. The Abegweit First Nation was established in 1972. The name Abegweit is the widely known Anglicization of Epekwitk, the original word taken from the Míkmaq language for Prince Edward Island. The 140 acre (54.6 hectare) Scotchfort Reserve 4 was created in 1879 and like all reserves on Prince Edward Island, was administered as part of the Lennox Island First Nation until separating in 1972. The Abegweit First Nation amalgamated the three reserves in the eastern part of the province in the 1990s.

Abegweit First Nation owns and operates a number of businesses, including Ultramar Epekwitk Gas Bar, a Robin's Donuts franchise, Red Stone Truck & Marine, and a commercial fishing fleet. Abegweit First Nation also houses Abegweit Biodiversity and Enhancement Hatchery, Abegweit Conservation Society, Abegweit Band Charities Inc and most recently, Epekwitk Gardens & Preserves.[7]

Germans[edit | edit source]


Towards the end of October, 1779, the town of Charlottetown received a temporary accession to its inhabitants, by the arrival of the Hessian regiment of Knyphansen, under convoy of the war ship Camilla. Severe gales were encountered in the River Saint Lawrence, which compelled the ship to take refuge in the island. The troops were landed, and there being no barrack accommodation for them, some succeeded in hutting themselves most comfortably. Some of the men were suffering from fever, but speedily recovered, on account of the admirable character of the climate. The town supply of provisions was utterly inadequate to meet the demand occasioned by so large an addition to the population, but the farmers soon made up the deficiency, and the Hessians remained till the month of June, when they left for their destination. Not a few of the men were so favorably impressed with the island, that they returned to it from Germany, many years afterwards, and became industrious settlers.[8]

Irish Immigrants[edit | edit source]


With its semi-feudal land system Prince Edward Island was less appealing than the other provinces. While settlers could acquire leaseholds from landlords, they could not easily purchase land, causing many Irish to bypass it all together or to eventually leave. As a result, the island became a well-trodden staging post for people seeking onward settlement in other parts of the Maritimes.

Situated opposite New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and within easy reach of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island occupies a strategic location in the Gulf of St Lawrence. Shipping routes, used to transport goods, also served Irish fishery workers in Newfoundland who moved to Prince Edward Island from the late eighteenth century to take up farming or better-paid jobs. They were Catholics who had mainly originated from counties Wexford, Waterford, Carlow, Kilkenny and Tipperary in the south east of Ireland.

Later on, many of the Irish, who had settled in Prince Edward Island, were driven by similar motives of self-betterment. They hopped on vessels that regularly crossed to the Miramichi region of New Brunswick. Thus, the island effectively became a crossroads for Irish people who, either arrived from Newfoundland, or went on to New Brunswick to benefit from its timber trade.

The situation changed in the 1830s when a Catholic priest organized the departures of over 2,000 Irish people, originating mainly from County Monaghan, who were then residing in Glasgow.

Taking pity on the many poor Irish people who were living in Glasgow, Father MacDonald organized their departures to the island. They mainly settled in central Queens County and along the boundaries between Queens and Prince Counties and Queens and Kings Counties, these being the areas where they could most easily find sufficient land to form their communities.[9]

Jewish Immmigrations[edit | edit source]


Like many an Atlantic Maritime Jewish community, the first recorded Jewish settlers on Prince Edward Island arrived at the turn of the 20th century. There were approximately a dozen other Jewish families who operated businesses for various, briefer periods before World War II and the number of Jews increased temporarily during the war when the Air Training Station was active. The significant majority of the members of the Prince Edward Island Jewish community of today arrived in the 1970s or later. [10]

Lebanese[edit | edit source]

Loyalists[edit | edit source]

The Abegweit Branch is the local branch of the United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada on Prince Edward Island. The Abegweit Branch, has existed for many years, meeting 4 times annually, and is looking for new members to carry on the traditions of the association, and to help us remember our UEL ancestors.


Loyalists were American colonists who stayed loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolutionary War, often referred to as Tories, Royalists, or King's Men at the time. When their cause was defeated, about 15 percent of the Loyalists (65,000–70,000 people) fled to other parts of the British Empire, to Britain itself, or to British North America (now Canada). The southern Loyalists moved mostly to Florida, which had remained loyal to the Crown, and to British Caribbean possessions. Northern Loyalists largely migrated to Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. They called themselves United Empire Loyalists. Most were compensated with Canadian land or British cash distributed through formal claims procedures. Historian Maya Jasanoff calculates about 2,000 went to Prince Edward Island.[11]

During and after the American Revolutionary War, from 1776 to 1783, the colony's efforts to attract exiled Loyalist refugees from the rebellious American colonies met with some success. Walter Patterson's brother, John Patterson, one of the original grantees of land on the island, was a temporarily exiled Loyalist and led efforts to persuade others to come. Governor Patterson dismissal in 1787, and his recall to London in 1789 dampened his brother's efforts, leading John to focus on his interests in the United States. Edmund Fanning, also a Loyalist exiled by the Revolution, took over as the second governor, serving until 1804. His tenure was more successful than Patterson's.[12]

Métis[edit | edit source]


  • The Métis are a multi ancestral indigenous group whose homeland is in Canada and parts of the United States between the Great Lakes region and the Rocky Mountains. The Métis trace their descent to both Indigenous North Americans and European settlers (primarily French). Not all people of mixed Indigenous and Settler descent are Métis, as the Métis are a distinct group of people with a distinct culture and language. Since the late 20th century, the Métis in Canada have been recognized as a distinct Indigenous people under the Constitution Act of 1982 and have a population of 587,545 as of 2016.
  • During the height of the North American fur trade in New France from 1650 onward, many French and British fur traders married First Nations and Inuit women, mainly Cree, Ojibwa, or Saulteaux located in the Great Lakes area and later into the north west.
  • The majority of these fur traders were French and Scottish; the French majority were Catholic.
  • These marriages are commonly referred to as marriage à la façon du pays or marriage according to the "custom of the country."
  • At first, the Hudson's Bay Company officially forbade these relationships. However, many Indigenous peoples actively encouraged them, because they drew fur traders into Indigenous kinship circles, creating social ties that supported the economic relationships developing between them and Europeans. When Indigenous women married European men, they introduced them to their people and their culture, taught them about the land and its resources, and worked alongside them. Indigenous women paddled and steered canoes, made moccasins out of moose skin, netted webbing for snowshoes, skinned animals and dried their meat for
  • The children of these marriages were often introduced to Catholicism, but grew up in primarily First Nations societies. As adults, the men often worked as fur-trade company interpreters, as well as fur trappers in their turn.
  • Many of the first generations of Métis lived within the First Nations societies of their wives and children, but also started to marry Métis women.
  • By the early 19th century, marriage between European fur traders and First Nations or Inuit women started to decline as European fur traders began to marry Métis women instead, because Métis women were familiar with both white and Indigenous cultures, and could interpret.[13]

Scottish Immigrants[edit | edit source]

Scots began arriving to Canada as early as the early seventeenth century. Sir William Alexander obtained permission from King James I to establish a Scottish settlement in 1622 named New Scotland or Nova Scotia. (Prince Edward Island was initially part of Nova Scotia.) The colony failed to flourish, however, and few families settled in Canada before the British conquest in 1759. The majority of these early Scottish settlers were Roman Catholics seeking political and religious refuge, fur traders with the Hudson's Bay Company, merchants and disbanded soldiers.

After this early period there were also a number of Highland farmers who emigrated from Scotland after being ejected from their land to make way for sheep grazing. The primary destinations for these early settlers were agricultural communities in Upper Lord Selkirk also settled over 800 Scottish migrants in Prince Edward Island in 1803.[14]

A large influx of Scottish Highlanders in the late 1700s also resulted in St. John's Island having the highest proportion of Scottish immigrants in Canada. This led to a higher proportion of Scottish Gaelic speakers and thriving culture surviving on the island than in Scotland itself, as the settlers could more easily avoid English influence overseas.[15]

Syrian/Lebanese[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Prince Edward Island", at Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Edward_Island#British_colony, accessed 2 November 2020.
  2. "Acadia", at Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acadia, accessed 3 Novenber 2020.
  3. "Black History in Canada", Library and Archives Canada, https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/history-ethnic-cultural/Pages/blacks.asp, accessed 22 October 2020.
  4. "Goodbye Green Gables: Chinese immigrants transforming P.E.I.’s cultural landscape", National Post, https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/goodbye-green-gables-chinese-immigrants-transforming-p-e-i-s-cultural-landscape/, accessed 2 November 2020.
  5. "‘The longer we live here, the more we like it’ : Chinese immigrants make the move to P.E.I", by Ross Lord, Global News, May 24, 2017, URL:https://globalnews.ca/news/3475736/the-longer-we-live-here-the-more-we-like-it-chinese-immigrants-make-the-move-to-p-e-i/, accessed 2 November 2020.
  6. "History of Prince Edward Island", at Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Prince_Edward_Island, accessed 2 November 2020.
  7. "Abegweit First Nation", at Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abegweit_First_Nation, accessed 2 November 2020.
  8. "History of Prince Edward Island", by Douglas Campbell, Charlottetown, 1875, URL:https://www.gutenberg.org/files/35835/35835-h/35835-h.htm
  9. "Prince Edward Island", at Irish to Canada, https://www.irishtocanada.com/prince-edward-island/, accesssed 2 November 2020.
  10. "History of the Jewish Community of PEI", at The Atlantic Jewish Counci, https://theajc.ca/history/the-jewish-community-of-prince-edward-island/, accessed 2 November 2020.
  11. "Loyalist (American Revolution)", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loyalist_(American_Revolution), accessed 2 November 2020.
  12. "Prince Edward Island", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Edward_Island#British_colony, accessed 2 November 2020.
  13. "Métis Nation", Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%A9tis, accessed 25 October 2020.
  14. "Scottish Immigrants", Library and Archives Canada. https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/history-ethnic-cultural/Pages/scottish.aspx, accessed 25 October 2020.
  15. "Prince Edward Island", at Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prince_Edward_Island#British_colony, accessed 2 November 2020.