First Lithuanian Footprints on Canadian Soil

April 21, 2023

Curiosity about the first recorded Lithuanians to reach Canadian shores led the Lithuanian Museum Archives of Canada to the War of 1812 in North America. Based on research conducted by Dr Kostas Jurgėla in 1964, Peg Perry, a volunteer at LMAC, curated “European Traces in the War of 1812”. It tells the story of 99 men born in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania before the 1795 partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. These men fought for the French in the Napoleonic Wars, deserted or were captured and then were contracted to fight for the British in the war with the United States of 1812-1814.

Researching the exhibition was enhanced by the vast amount of information now available through internet resources. It allowed for discovering specific details about each soldier and their fate. Many did not return to Lithuanian, having died in battle in Canada. The research process also exposed the issue of the identification of “Lithuanian” soldiers. Recorded documentation was completed by Swiss and British record keepers in German, French and English. Names and birthplaces were changed according to each record keeper’s personal interpretation. It did not help that ongoing political development changed boundaries and place names. Using the same criteria as Dr Jurgėla, we focused on birthplace as the best indicator of nationality.

This exhibition has benefited from the unusual circumstances of the Covid period. Lockdown reduces available resources to those available online but also provides quiet time to perform intensive research. A small version was first presented as a drive-through exhibition during the lockdown phase. As restrictions opened up, the full exhibition was on display at Old Fort Erie Museum – the actual location where one of the battles took place. The exhibition is currently on display at LMAC and has been selected to be added to the Digital Museums Canada website. To view the exhibition, please go to:

Danguolė Juozapavičius-Breen Director, LMAC