During the nineteenth century in Britain a multitude of great events and influences changed the lives of its people forever, most notably the Industrial Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, the devastating “Great Famine” in Ireland, and the tragic Scottish “clearances.” The social and economic upheavals that resulted from these occurrences made it necessary for thousands of people to choose to abandon their native land for the overseas colonies.
“Century of Farewells: A Biographical Dictionary of Prince Edward Island Immigrants, 1800-1900” documents the arrival of thousands of these immigrants to Prince Edward Island. Most of these 19th century arrivals came from the British Isles and left their homeland for a variety of reasons, but a common thread bound them all together – the desire to have a better life in the New World. Although many left their homes by their own choice, and with the financial means to begin a new life abroad, the vast majority abandoned their native homeland out of sheer necessity.
Some emigrants were encouraged and supported by paternalistic landlords, such as Lord Selkirk, but most left their native lands with meagre support and guidance from any leader, relying upon hope and good fortune to see them through.
The vessels that emigrants took in their Atlantic passage westward to Prince Edward Island were seldom comfortable. Overcrowding, putrid food, stale water, disease, and storms at sea characterized many of the emigrant voyages which usually lasted from four to six weeks.
More than seven thousand cross-referenced entries in this two-volume dictionary document the lives of perhaps one-quarter of all the immigrants who arrived on Prince Edward Island during the nineteenth century. The documentation of immigrant arrivals by Mr. Morrison is an on-going project and he has already commenced a second edition which will expand and update this first edition. He estimates that its completion in a few years time should contain at least three thousand new entries, in addition to expanded information on those in this first edition.
Statistics are unavailable as to how many people actually settled on P.E.I. during the 1800s, but Mr. Morrison estimates that from twenty to thirty thousand people arrived during the century. His research is based upon published histories, newspaper notices of death and obituaries, cemetery inscriptions, and a variety of other sources. It is hoped that this work will help foster a greater interest among Islanders and others in documenting their family histories, and assist them in their search for their “roots” in the country of origin of their immigrant ancestors.