I was also away on a family vacation to the Canadian East Coast. While I was out in Halifax, I took the opportunity to make a small genealogy related side trip to Pier 21. For those of you who are not familiar with Pier 21 let me bring you up to speed.
Pier 21 is the last immigration shed in Canada still standing. This gateway tells the story of 1.5 million immigrants and Canadian military service men and women who passed through its doors between 1928 and 1971. Just one week prior to our arrival, Pier 21 was designated a National Historic site by Prime Minister Stephen Harper on June 25, 2009.
Pier 21 is being deemed as Canada's Ellis Island. I will forewarn you, if you have been to Ellis Island then Pier 21 is dwarfed in comparsion. However, this does not minimize the importance this port has played in the landscape of Canadian immigration. Pier 21 has only been operating as a museum for 10 years. It's recent designation will go along way in giving them the exposure and funds they require to expand their services.
What I enjoyed the most from our self-guided tour was the simulated CN Rail Car that travels from Halifax to Vancouver. Step into one of the train compartments and listen to the personal and moving first hand accounts of immigrants arrivals.
Pier 21 was also a major portal for our Canadian servicemen during World War II. However, you will not find information on soldiers here, only lists of ship names that moved in and out of this port.
One aspect that makes this Pier special to those in the genealogy field; Pier 21 offers a research centre. The research centre boasts some 2000 stories, 600 oral histories, 1000 donated books and 300 films and thousands of archival images and scans of immigration and World War II documents. A research room and services are available to anyone who visits. But if a trip to Nova Scotia is not on your agenda anytime soon then the research team will also respond to your emails, letters and telephone calls. For more information on Pier 21, its research services and a list of its databases visit http://www.pier21.ca/
The research team conducts oral history interviews and delivers educational workshops. There are plans for expansion and they are always looking for stories, should you be or know of an immigrant who has passed through this gateway, they want to here from you. They will also accept donations of any books, pictures or artifacts that may be deemed relevant to their museum.
If you do happen to find yourself in Halifax anytime soon, then you also must check out the Maritime Museum. This museum offers a fabulous display and history on the Halifax explosion and the Titanic sinking. I also visited a cemetery hosting some 120 tombstones of Titanic passengers who were buried in a public cemetery in Halifax. Oh and don't forget to sneak in time for some fresh seafood and Alexander Keith's.