Like many other immigrants to Canada from the Russian Empire and,
later, Soviet Union, many Estonians fled to Canada in an attempt
to escape the poverty and oppression they felt under the control
of the Russian Empire. One of these individuals was Hendrick
Kingsep, a school teacher fluent in
several languages. As a
young man he was a political radical and joined in
a plot to overthrow the Tsar of Russia. At this time, Estonia
was facing economic as well as political and social challenges. At age 24,
Henrick met and married Emilie, the daughter of a local shoemaker.
Dissatisfied with his life in Estonia and fearful of the
consequences of his involvement in the revolution, he was open to
the idea of immigration.
Hendrick's brother Kristjan was a sailor and had told Henrick
about his voyages,
including a trip he had taken to Montreal. Upon hearing his
brother speak of this wonderous land, Henrick became convinced that
Canada was the place for him. To prepare for life in his new
homeland, Henrick began studying English. In 1899, the Kingsep brothers and their families made the journey from Estonia to
Alberta, where they registered homesteads near Sylvan Lake, Alberta.
These families were only two of the many that
left Estonia for Canada at that time. The group that included the
Kingsep's was the first and most influential wave of
Estonian immigration, which continued until 1916.
This digital collection was
produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital
Collections initiative, Industry Canada.