English Immigrant Voices

English Immigrant Voices, Labourers' Letters from Upper Canada in the 1830s
Edited by Wendy Cameron, Sheila Haines, and Mary McDougall Maude with the assistance of Leigh Lawson and Brenda Dougall Merriman

McGill-Queen's University Press, September 2000, cloth, 496pp, illus, maps, tables and figures

Includes introduction, notes, sources, lists of letter-writers by letter number and place of origin, and index

"invaluable ... for historians, history teachers, and those interested in the emigrant experience in Canada ... a model for anyone intending to publish primary sources about emigration"
Terry A. Crowley, Canadian Book Review Annual, 2002

"the amount of archival and, particularly, genealogical work related to the letters is truly astonishing"
Patrick J. Connor, Ontario History 93, no. 1 (2001)

English Immigrant Voices is listed on the McGill-Queen's University Press website and booksellers can order it from them. It is also available online at sites including Chapters Indigo,,, and It can be purchased with Assisting Emigration from Upper Canada in a boxed set.

Also available in e-book format - information to purchase at McGill-Queen's University Press or check your public or university library.

Townships of Upper Canada settled by Petworth Immigrants

Townships of Upper Canada settled
by Petworth Immigrants, 1832-37

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English Immigrant Voices: Labourers' Letters from Upper Canada in the 1830s
English Immigrant Voices, presents annotated letters edited with accessibility to the modern reader in mind. To provide more context for the letters, the editors have used project files to sketch the stories of individual writers.
These 1830s immigrants wrote to England to tell family about the voyage and their new life. They reported on work, food and drink, weather, opportunities, the stuff of their daily lives. They wrote about what they missed and what they did not. They described their fears and their hopes and plans.
One hundred and forty-two letters or extracts of letters in this book were sent by Petworth immigrants between 1832 and 1840. Letters written after 1840, letters from relatives in England, and memoirs add other perspectives. 


1832 [1 to 49]
1833 [50 to 93]
1834 [94 to 98]
1835 [99 to 103]
1836 [104 to 125]
1837 [126 to 131]
1838 and later [132 to 144]

Additional Correspondence and Memoirs
Wilson Correspondence [145 to 164]
Chantler Correspondence [165 to173]
Frederick Hasted Letters [174 and 175]
Wells' Letter [176]
Knight Correspondence [177 to 179]
Charles Adsett Autobiography [180]


 - In an introductory essay, the editors of English Immigrant Voices confront the questions of authenticity that surround working-class letters of this early date. They place the letter-writers in the context of the Petworth emigration scheme.

 - Short introductions to the letters of each year explain key events.

 - Letters are drawn from private and public archives and from texts printed either by Thomas Sockett or by Sussex newpaper editors.

 - Letters are annotated to sketch the story of individual writers, to link letters by the same author or members of the same family, and to explore the connections between writers. Where possible, information is given on the later lives of the writers and their families.

 - Numerous illustrations are drawn mainly from contemporary sources.

 - Nine maps show the origins and destinations of the immigrants, identify places mentioned in the letters, and give the 1830s boundaries of parishes in Sussex and townships in Upper Canada

Sample Letter
The Cosens family sailed on a ship chartered by the Petworth committee by an arrangement made by their local sponsors, the Dorking Emigration Society.
Ann Miller Cosens, Waterloo Township, Upper Canada, to her father, mother, and sister, [Dorking, Surrey], 31 March 1833

Ann Miller and Charles Cosens married in Dorking, Surrey, in February 1832. They emigrated a few months later, aged 20 and 19, respectively, at the same time as Charles's parents and brothers and sisters. See letter 34, by Charles's brother Cornelius.
Although William Upton in letter 27 had identified an opportunity (such as the Cosens had) to hire out as a couple without children as an excellent way to make money, Ann seemed less than comfortable with the arrangement. 

Source: Cosens family papers, Gowanstown, Ontario

Waterloo, America
March 31, 1833
My Dear Father, Mother, and Sister:
After a long delay I now improve the opportunity of writing to you, hoping that it will find you all well as, thank God, it leaves us at present. We have been both laid up with the fever and ague. Charles froze three of his toes. They were very bad but, thank God, they are almost well.
He has hired with a large farmer for 12 months. His wages is 10 shillings English money a week ($2.50) and his board. I live in the house with the family and do needlework and I am paid by the piece. We are both very comfortable. I have no incumberence now and no signs of any at present. We were very glad to hear that you were well when Bushby sent his letter. Again glad to hear that my sister Jane is doing well and that she has got a little girl, I long to know and to name. And so pleased to hear from my dear sister that has got so comfortable. We often wish that we could see you all again. I will not persuade you to come to Canada unless you could bring some money with you. It is a very poor country for a person without some money, but if a person had some money thay can do well, much better than they can do in England. We do not like the country as well as we did England but I think that we shall like it better after a time. The winter is colder and the summer is hotter here than what it was at home. The days are shorter in the summer and longer in the winter. There is plenty of very fine wood here without any expense. We can get it any where by cutting it. We need not get cold. I often think of poor Jane, she told me that I would freeze to death in Canada. There is no danger of that. We do not suffer either with cold or hunger.
There was nothing said about Jane's husband in that letter that Cornelious had. Charles' friends [parents] live about 8 miles from us. His father has a house for one year. They are getting along as well as can be expected but they have a lot of serious trouble. They lost two of their daughters, Jane and Mary Ann. Jane (Mrs. Tilt) died in childbirth and Mary Ann from the effects of scarlet fever. Some of the rest of them are quite poorly, and have not recovered from their trouble yet. I should have wrote you before but Cornelious' letter laid 2 months in the post office. I wrote to you in the summer as soon as we landed but we never had any answer so we thought that you had not received my letter.
Please write to us as soon as you receive this letter and let us have all the news you can. We long to hear from you.
When you write you must pay the post through England or it will not reach us. Charles saw Cornelious a little before we wrote and he said that he was going to write to Mr. Bushby and Charles desired to be remembered to Thomas Skildon and Wm. Mason and tell them that there is no cricketing in Canada. They don't know what the game is. You may tell Mason that he might have done well if he had come. The working man is thought just as much of as his master. We are not obliged to set down to a piece of bread and hard cheese. The table is set all the time, loaded like as though there was feasting.
Charles heard from young Jos Taylor and he is quite well, and he had a suit of nice blue cloth. Please tell his father that he is quite well. Dear Father, there is plenty of good potter's clay and the pottery is a very good business here if a man had a little money. There is no duty to pay and the pottery sells here as dear as in England.
Give our love to all our friends and [accept] the same yourselves. From your affectionate son and daughter,
Ann and Charles Cosens

Direct your letter to Charles Cosens c/o Breugremen Snider
Township of Waterloo. Upper Block, Holton Co., Gore District of Upper Canada, North America.

Sample Chronology

12 Sockett was in Portsmouth seeing to the "fitting out" of the England.
25 The England sailed from Spithead
30 The England in Portland Roads (off the coast of Dorset)

1 The England put to sea and on
5 May passed the Lizard, the southern tip of Cornwall.
24-5 Hale reported having problems with turbulent emigrants.

4 Caroline Dearling reported sighting land.
16 The emigrants landed at Grosse Isle; they re-embarked the same day.
17 The England arrived at Quebec, departing the next day under tow.
20 The emigrants arrived at Montreal where they stayed on the ship until the 22nd.
22-23 The emigrants were at Lachine, camped in McPherson's warehouse.
24 The emigrants embarked on Durham boats at 4:00 am and were towed to Cascades.
24-26 Cascades to Cornwall in the rain, by Durham boat and by road.
28 The emigrants arrived at Prescott. 29 The emigrants left Prescott for Kingston on the steamer United Kingdom.

1 Arrived at Toronto from Kingston on the steamer Great Britain.