Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta
Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization
Privacy of Living Persons: In order to protect the privacy of persons on the CMBoC records who may still be living, the MHSA has decided to remove the images of these records from the website. The persons listed here were all born 100 years ago or earlier. Persons born later will be added on an annual basis.
The name shown here is as given on the record, i.e. at the time of arrival in Canada. So, in the case of many females, this represents their married names. In some cases, for either gender, it may represent an adopted name. The parentheses after each name contains their birth year as shown on the record
Improved Index: The CMBoC index pages now groups heads of households on the basis of the GRANDMA surname codes ( p4). By using these codes, all the variant spellings of each surname are given a single code value, such as 001 for Abrams, Abrahams and other variations of that surname. This makes it much easier to find a particular surname in large lists or in databases, searching by code number rather than by trying all the possible ways that the surname may be spelled.
Copies of Records: We invite inquiries and will respond to individual requests for research copies. If possible, cite both full name of household head and four-digit record number in your request. In order to acknowledge our time in filling such requests, we request $10 payment per record supplied in jpg format by e-mail attachment. If you visit the MHSA you can conduct the search yourself and there is no search fee.
Between 1923 and 1930 almost 6,000 Mennonite households (20,201 individuals) pulled up their roots from the USSR and managed to emigrate to Canada. For many this had a substantial physical, emotional, psychological, and financial cost associated. Migration theory tells us that small and large moves are made on the basis of the balance of push, pull, and inertia factors.
Some of the things that were pushing Mennonites were the loss of control over their financial and religious affairs, the inability to provide adequate food on the table, the fear of military activities, and so on. The pull of Canadian residence was that Mennonites would be able to regain control over these aspects of their lives and acquire enough land that their families to grow in comfort and be supported by the produce of the land. Inertia - well there wasn't much of that for most, but there were inhibiting factors such as the reluctance of the USSR authorities to provide exit visas. So strong were the push and pull factors at that time, that families spent years in their efforts to acquire the exit visas. Towards the end of the 1920s, this resulted in a major Mennonite demonstration in Moscow (see Vor den Toren Moskaus by H.J. Willms, 1960 - also published in English under the title At the Gate of Moscow).
The Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization (CMBoC) of Rosthern, Saskatchewan created a registration form for each family that came to Canada under its auspices. These forms were cross-referenced to the ledger books which recorded the transportation debt, which the CMBoC owed to Canadian Pacific Railway.
The registrations forms initially consisted of a two-sided 5.5 x 8 1/2" newsprint sheets that were preprinted and completed by hand (see sample front and back with German replaced by English translation). The sheets are punched with two holes on the left side, and were housed in cardboard binders. For a substantial period of time they were in the care of Mennonite Central Committee (Canada). Then, they were moved to the Mennonite Heritage Centre in Winnipeg where they are carefully kept in archival conditions.
The pages are of fragile newsprint and with many years of handling their condition has deteriorated. The MHC had them microfilmed as a conservation procedure for the long term protection of the originals. These microfilms are now in a publicly accessible area of their archive. An alphabetical index of household heads represented in the records makes it much easier to locate a needed record (revised March 2007 by Al Rempel, Edmonton).
Why is such care bestowed on these records? It's because they contain rich information about the Mennonite households who were able to leave the USSR and come to Canada.
Each one represents a milestone in the fleeing and freeing experience. Years later, they represent one sure proof of age for those who apply for Old Age Pension. Collectively, they represent a goldmine of data for family and academic historians.
The face of each record identifies the given and surnames of all household members (maiden name of the mother is occasionally identified), their birthdates, and generally their birthplaces. It also contains a single word indicating how the trip costs were paid, and the above-mentioned cross-reference numbers.
The back of each record tells the story of the journey from Russia to Canada in painstaking detail: place of last residence, place and date when the journey began, all dates of arrival/departure at ports, including ship names. It identifies the intended first place of residence in Canada and may include a list of names of relatives who had previously immigrated to Canada or the United States. The back of each record also may record information about persons who were medically-detained in any of the ports.
There are two other online sources of information regarding persons who immigrated to Canada during this period. One is FindMyPast, where an online search will produce a list of "hits" for anyone who departed from the United Kingdom on a ship between 1890 and 1960. For a fee, one can purchase a scanned copy of the ship's manifest (passenger list). Another is the Library & Archives Canada, where an online search will produce a list of "hits" for anyone arriving in Canada by ship between 1925 and 1935, and those whose surname begins with "C" and crossed into Canada from the United States. In that case, there are several offline means for obtaining a copy of the record.
Various other records may be available in family or other collections to support the documentation of the immigration to Canada experience. See our small gallery of immigration record image samples. More are welcome.
The MHSA acquired a copy of the 36 reels of microfilm required to preserve the CMBOC records. We have extracted the family-history information from them into many small databases and are compiling them into one big database. Within privacy considerations, the database will be submitted for inclusion in GRANDMA (Genealogical Register and DAtabse of Mennonite Ancestry).
In addition, the links at the top of this page provide access to the names and birth years of every person listed in those records and who was born at least 100 years ago.
The microfilm copies are available both in the MHSA and the MHC archives. In addition, we have microfilmed copies of the CMBoC records from the 1940s/1950s.
Judith Rempel has coordinated this project, with the considerable assistance of other volunteers as well. Thousands of hours have gone into the reading, data entry, indexing, correcting, linking and proofreading steps. This project has proceeding as a result of the support and cooperation of the Mennonite Heritage Centre of Winnipeg (thank you Alf Redekopp and Ken Reddig), and the great help of a lot of volunteers who we would like to acknowledge here.