There are no comprehensive lists of immigrants arriving in Canada prior to 1865. Until that year, shipping companies were not required by the government to keep their passenger manifests.
If your ancestor arrived from the UK you may find him/her in lists pertaining to British-subsidized immigration schemes for the period 1817-1831.
You might also find an ancestor in correspondence of the Secretary of State on immigration for 1817-1857. There are lists of immigrants, mainly Irish, and entry books re immigration, and assisted emigration to British North America.
These must be ordered offline.
There are passenger lists to Canada before 1865 on The Olive Tree Genealogy.
There are also some passenger lists which were kept by shipping agents in the originating country. For example, the Passenger Books of J & J Cooke, Shipping Agents gives sailings from Londonderry to Philadelphia PA, Quebec, and St. John New Brunswick from 1847 to 1871.
Olive Tree has some passenger lists from these records online, and will be adding more as time permits. For an index of clickable links to those JJ Cooke passenger lists online to date, see
There are also the William McCorkell & Co. lists beginning in 1863 and ending in 1871.
The Hawke Papers, letterbooks of Chief Emigrant Agent Anthony B. Hawke are also available. They cover the years 1831 to 1892.
Details on these (where they are, how to get them) can be found in "Immigration to Canada before 1865" at
You can also search the online database at http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/english/db/hawke.htm
You might also want to join the mailing list for immigration to Canada before 1865. You can sub from the URL above.
If you want to search online, you may have limited success because only a very small percentage of ships to Canada have been transcribed and put online.
However here is a custom search engine I recommend to make your search time more efficient (and hopefully more successful!)It searches dozens of websites at once.
You can also check out the pages for ships passenger lists to the following parts of Canada:
Ships Passenger Lists to Quebec
Ships Passenger Lists to New Brunswick
Ships Passenger Lists to Nova Scotia