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Discovering Roots at the Pier 21 Immigration Museum in Halifax: A Journey from Norfolk to New Lands

by | Mar 7, 2024

Nestled on the Halifax waterfront, the Pier 21 Immigration Museum stands as a beacon of Canada’s rich mosaic of cultures, embodying the dreams and realities of millions who stepped onto Canadian soil in search of a new beginning. This historic gateway, often referred to as the ‘Ellis Island of Canada,’ has played a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s identity, welcoming over a million immigrants between 1928 and 1971. Among these were numerous families from Norfolk, England, who embarked on a daunting journey across the Atlantic in the 1800s, seeking opportunities and a fresh start in the vast landscapes of Canada.

A Norfolk Connection: From English Shores to Canadian Shores

The museum’s focus on immigration from England during the 1800s sheds light on the stories of resilience and hope that define the Canadian immigrant experience. Among the exhibits, personal narratives and artifacts trace the paths of Norfolk families like the Shreeve Family, whose decision to leave familiar lands behind marked the beginning of Canada’s multicultural tapestry. These stories not only highlight the challenges faced during the journey and upon arrival but also celebrate the contributions of English immigrants to Canada’s development. As far as we can tell John Shreeve and his family bypassed Halifax and headed deeper into Canada having migrated from Norfolk in the mid 1800’s.

The Journey Documented

The Pier 21 Immigration Museum in Halifax meticulously documents the journey of immigrants, offering visitors a glimpse into the emotions and experiences that accompanied the passage from England to Canada. Interactive displays and archival materials bring to life the anticipation, uncertainty, and eventual relief of setting foot on Canadian soil. For many descendants of Norfolk families, the museum serves as a vital link to their ancestral past, providing insights into the courage and determination that fueled their forebears’ journey to a new world.

Top Five Frequently Asked Questions About Pier 21 Immigration Museum Halifax

  1. What role did Pier 21 play in Canadian immigration history? Pier 21 served as the primary entry point for immigrants to Canada from 1928 to 1971, earning its reputation as the ‘Ellis Island of Canada.’ It was the gateway for nearly one-fifth of Canada’s immigrant population during that period, playing a crucial role in the country’s demographic and cultural development.
  2. Can I find records of my ancestors who immigrated through Pier 21? Yes, the museum offers a Genealogy Research service that can help visitors trace their family’s arrival records. While specific details about families from Norfolk or any other region might require thorough research, the museum’s resources provide a starting point for uncovering family histories.
  3. What types of exhibits can I expect to see at the museum? The museum features a range of exhibits, including personal stories of immigrants, multimedia presentations, and artifacts that depict the immigration process. These exhibits cover various themes, including the journey to Canada, the challenges of starting anew, and the contributions of immigrants to Canadian society.
  4. How can educators use the museum for teaching about Canadian immigration? Pier 21 offers educational programs and resources designed to engage students with Canada’s immigration history. These include guided tours, interactive workshops, and curriculum-based materials that provide a comprehensive look at the immigrant experience and its impact on Canada.
  5. Is the museum involved in any community outreach or cultural programs? Yes, the Pier 21 Immigration Museum actively participates in community outreach and hosts cultural events that celebrate Canada’s diversity. These programs aim to foster understanding and appreciation of the different cultures that contribute to Canada’s identity, including special events that highlight the contributions of specific immigrant groups.


The Pier 21 Immigration Museum in Halifax stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of those who crossed oceans in search of a better life. For families from Norfolk and beyond, the museum not only preserves the legacy of their journey but also serves as a reminder of the strength and diversity that immigrants bring to Canada. As we walk through the exhibits, we are reminded of the shared history that binds us and the collective future we build together, one immigrant story at a time.