MSS-037-Canadian National Censuses, 1871-1921

Episode 037-August 18, 2015

Census records along with vital records are the quickest way to begin filling out your family tree. Today we’ll look at the censuses that were compiled after Confederation until the most recently released 1921 census.

MSS-037-01-Intro

In Language Tip #37, we’ll look at the different spellings for the /OY/ sound in both English and French.

French-Canadian News

American-French Genealogical Society

  • August 22, 9 AM: Jan Burkhart, ‘How to Use the Library’ and ‘How to Read the Repertoires.’
  • August 29, 9 AM: Bill Pommenville, ‘How to Improve your Searches of the internet.’

All classes are held at the AFGS library, 78 Earle St., in Woonsocket, RI.

Franco-American Centre in Manchester, New Hampshire

August 21, 7:30 AM-2 PM: Tournoi de Golf, Passaconaway Country Club, Litchfield, NH. This celebrated tournament brings together members and friends from around the region in one of the Centre’s biggest annual fundraising events to benefit the Franco-American Centre and The Euclide Gilbert French Language Foundation Scholarship Fund.

French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan

September 12, 11 AM: Lynn Evans, ‘The DesRivieres at House 7, an in-depth look at a French-Canadian trading family at Michilimackinac.’ Held at the Mount Clemens Public Library.

Quebec Family History Society

September 12, 10:30 AM: Louis Leprohon will talk about the Quebecoise Naive Artist, Marcel Dargis, who painted scenes that he recalled from Francophone life in his parish.

American-Canadian Genealogical Society

September 25, 8 AM-4 PM: Fall Conference and Annual Meeting at the Puritan Restaurant on Rt. 28 in Manchester, NH. There will be three speakers: Jennifer Zinck, ‘DNA Basics;’ Lucie LeBlanc Consentino, ‘Running Towards Freedom: the Acadian Escape from Deportation;’ and Ed McGuire, ‘Connecting Your Vermont Ancestors to Their Quebec Roots.’ Breakfast and lunch are included. You can download a pdf copy of the brochure from their website, and an early bird rate is in effect until September 15th.

Center for French Colonial Studies

October 23-25: French-Colonial Detroit/Aboriginal Presence Conference at the University of Windsor in Ontario to coincide “with the 400th anniversary of the French presence in Ontario and the 250th anniversary of the end of Pontiac’s War.” There are many wonderful speakers at this conference, including Suzanne Sommerville from Maple Stars and Stripes episode #16.

Language Tip #37-the /OY/ Sound

MSS-037-02-euilleThe letters EUIL and EUILLE make a sound not found in English. The closest sound we have is the sound of /OY/. So any surname with those French letter combinations will more often than not be found in English records spelled OY. Examples are the surnames d’Argenteuil, Vertefeuille, and Bellefeuille.

So in 1900 in Tacoma, Washington, is the Bellfoy family. In Canada, you’d search for the name Bellefeuille.

So when you have an English record with a name ending in OY, look for EUIL or EUILLE in Canada. In reverse, if you have a Canadian record with a name spelled witn an EUIL or EUILLE, look for OY in an English-language record.

 

1900 census, Tacoma, WA

1900 census, Tacoma, WA, from HeritageQuest Online

Canadian National Censuses, 1871-1921

Census records are a great resource for those who have traced their French-Canadian lines back into Canada. Searching these records is so much easier today because the records have been digitized and indexed.

Since genealogists research ‘backwards,’ we are going to look at the censuses from the most currently released one, 1921, back to 1871, the first census after Confederation.

Census Caveats/Notes

  • Don’t just consult the last census in Canada in which your ancestor was recorded and work backwards. Search for remaining family members and come forward. Did they die in Canada or leave later to perhaps join family elsewhere?
  • Some geographical areas were missed, and some parts of the census have been lost.
  • If you cannot find an ancestor in Quebec, and you expected him to be there, check censuses for other provinces or the states.
  • From 1871 on, people, except for those with no permanent home, were supposed to be enumerated where they normally resided, not where they were the day the census taker came around.
  • Some indexes are incorrect or incomplete. You might have to resort to a page by page locality search. To do that, or to use microfilm copies of the census, you need to know district and sub-district first. Check out the Library and Archives Canada Census page, click on the census year you’re working with, click on ‘Districts and Sub-districts,’ click on your province, say ‘Quebec,’ and there you can look for your town to see what District it was in. Since the lists are fairly long, here’s a shortcut. Put you cursor at the top of the list. On a PC, hold down the control key while you press the F key. That will bring up a Find box or a Find window. Type in the name of your town and click Next, and it will take you directly to where your town is located on that page.
  • Use maps to check out provincial boundaries. They changed over time. Make sure you have a clear grasp of which province an ancestor’s town was located in during any particular census year. Two helpful resources are the Electoral Atlas of the Dominion of Canada from 1895 and the 1906 Atlas of Canada.
  • In the past, printed indexes were constructed for the microfilm version of the census, sometimes for small areas like towns or for entire provinces. Some of these indexes as well as transcribed portions of the census were placed online. If you cannot find an ancestor in the index for a digitized version, do a Google search for the census index by year and location, or perhaps you will find success with one of the transcriptions. Some of these can be found at census-online.com and censuslinks.com.
  • Remember that the information in the census is only as good as the memory or integrity or trust of the person giving it. For some censuses, the enumerator was specifically instructed to get the information from the head of the household. In others, the information could have come from any other household member or even a neighbor. Information found in the census should always be compared to and checked against information found in other records.
  • Check out Ancestry’s interactive census map. Here you’ll not only find a list of questions that were asked on every national census from 1871 to 1911, but it also includes maps showing provincial and territorial boundaries for each census, the population at that time, and other interesting facts.
  • The Library and Archives Canada website includes links to indexes and images for each national census except for 1921, which can only be found on Ancestry.com. As per their agreement, after three years of Ancestry’s exclusivity, the LAC will be able to post these records on its website as well. I would highly recommend that, before beginning research in any particular census, you thoroughly read the documentation on the ‘About the Census’ pages for each census year on the Library and Archives Canada website. There is so much valuable information that will save you time in the long run.
  • 1916 About Page
  • 1911 About Page
  • 1906 About Page
  • 1901 About Page
  • 1891 About Page
  • 1881 About Page
  • 1871 About Page
  • 1870 (Manitoba) About Page
  • One of the quickest resources for locating censuses and their indexes is FamilySearch’s ‘Online Canadian Census Indexes and Images.’

1921 Census

  • Official census date: June 1, 1921MSS-037-03-census dates
  • The originals were destroyed in 1955.
  • 1921 census online: Right now, the every-name index and images are only available on Ancestry.com (.ca in Canada).
  • The 1921 census is free on Ancestry to those in Canada with a Canadian ISP (Internet Service Provider) or physically at the LAC or subscribing Canadian libraries.
  • Canadians must pay only if they prefer to conduct advanced searches from home.
  • Those in the US need Ancestry’s World Explorer Subscription, or you might find a Family History Library or a public library with a subscription to Ancestry’s Library Edition.
  • Enumerator Instructions for the 1921 census : In English  In French
  • Update Nov 2015: Steve Morse has now added ‘Searching the 1921 Canadian Census in One Step’ to his website. Be sure to select ‘1921’ in the drop-down box.
  • Ancestry.com video ‘Getting the Most Out of the 1921 Canada Census’ with Crista Cowan.

1911 Census

  • Official census date: June 1, 1911
  • The originals were destroyed in 1955.
  • Out of 13 schedules, only the population schedule still exists. Schedule 1 is the general census; schedule A1 is for the Norhtwest Territories and the Yukon. Be sure to check for a change in boundaries on Ancestry’s interactive census map.
  • 1911 census online: Every name indexes and images are found at Automated Genealogy, LAC, and Ancestry (.ca in Canada). An index is available at FamilySearch.org, but they direct you to the LAC website for the actual images. However, you can access the microfilms at the Family History Library.
  • Steve Morse’s ‘Searching the 1911 Canadian Census in One Step’
  • The information in this census was supposed to be provided by the head of the household.
  • Enumerator Instructions for the 1911 census:   In English       In French
  • LAC About page for the 1911 census

1901 census

  • Official census date: March 31, 1901
  • Out of 11 schedules, only the population schedule (schedule 1) and the buildings and land, churches and schools schedule (schedule 2) still exist. The latter is available on microfilm. The originals were destroyed in 1955. On schedule 2, questions 1 and 2 refer to which page and line that person can be found on in the population schedule. Some microfilm reels have pages from the other schedules scattered throughout as well. The Schedule 2 pages are found at the end of the population schedules.
  • Part of the original census for British Columbia was destroyed when the steamer Islander sank with the returns on board and had to be redone. However, since so many people had already left for the winter, it was estimated that the second return had about 600 fewer people than the original.
  • The information in this census was supposed to be provided by the head of the household.
  • 1901 census online: Indexes and images can be found at Automated Genealogy, LAC, and Ancestry (.ca in Canada). An index is available at FamilySearch.org, but again they direct you to the LAC website for the actual images. You can access the microfilms at the Family History Library.
  • Steve Morse’s ‘Searching the 1901 Canadian Census in One Step’ website can help. Be sure to click the down arrow after the year and change it to 1901.
  • Enumerator Instructions for the 1901 census
  • LAC About Page for the 1901 census

1891 Census

  • Official census date: April 6, 1891
  • Out of 9 original schedules, only the population schedule still exists. The originals were destroyed in 1955.
  • In this census, anyone could give information about household members, including neighbors.
  • From this census forward, people’s relationship to the head of household is given.
  • 1891 census online: every-name indexes and images can be found at LAC and Ancestry (.ca in Canada). An index is available at FamilySearch.org, and microfilm is available at the Family History Library. A caveat for this census is that when it was microfilmed, the pages were sometimes out of order, so be careful and check page numbers. Check out the FamilySearch Microfilm Finding Aid.
  • Stephen Morse’s ‘Searching the 1891 Canadian Census in One Step’ tool can help. Be sure to click the down arrow after the year and change it to 1891.
  • Enumerator Instructions for the 1891 census
  • LAC About Page for the 1891 census

1881 Census

  • 1881 census

    1881 census image from Library and Archives Canada

  • Official census date: April 4, 1881
  • Out of 8 original schedules, only the population schedule still exists. The originals were destroyed in 1955.
  • This was the first coast-to-coast census.
  • 1881 census online: every-name indexes and images can be found at LAC and Ancestry (.ca in Canada). An index is available at FamilySearch.org, and microfilm is available at the Family History Library.
  • Try Stephen Morse’s ‘Searching the 1881 Canadian Census in One Step’ tool.
  • Enumerator instructions for the 1881 census
  • LAC About Page for the 1881 census

1871 Census

  • Official census date: April 2, 1871
  • Out of 8 original schedules, only the population schedule still exists. The originals were destroyed in 1955.
  • Included the four original provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Québec, and Ontario.
  • 1871 census online: Every-name indexes and images for the population schedules can be found at LAC and Ancestry (.ca in Canada). An index is available at FamilySearch.org, not only for the population schedule, but also for the mortality schedules, which enumerated people who died the year prior to the census. It included a person’s age at last birthday [thank you, Ruth, for the correction], year and place of birth, and month and place of death.
  • Data was collected for nine different schedules in 1871, and most of these schedules survive in microform. Besides the population schedules, Schedule 1, and the Mortality schedules, Schedule 2, are the following:
  • Schedule 3, Return of public institutions, real and personal estate
  • Schedule 4, Return of cultivated land and products
  • Schedule 5, Livestock, animal products, home-made fabrics and furs
  • Schedule 6, Return of industrial establishments
  • Schedule 7, Return of products of the forest
  • Schedule 8, Return of shipping and fisheries
  • Schedule 9, Return of mineral products
  • The land descriptions in Schedule 2 from 1901 and schedule 4 from this census year can be used to locate property, especially in the province of Ontario. The agricultural schedule also included such information as whether the person was an owner, tenant, or employee, the number of acres farmed, types of crops and yield.
  • Enumerator instructions for the 1871 census
  • LAC About Page for the 1871 census

Natives in the Census

In many of the censuses, Natives or Métis were irregularly enumerated. The government found it too difficult to record people scattered throughout the vast prairie territories or provinces.

Racial or tribal origin was a question on the 1901, 1911, and 1921 censuses. In 1901, a Native would be indicated with an ‘r’ for red. Only pure whites were to be designated as such. Any degree of mixing at all resulted in a ‘red’ classification. Persons of mixed blood were designated as ‘breeds.’ After recording the tribe, the enumerator was instructed to write an ‘fb’ indicating French breed, a mixture of French and Native; ‘eb’ for English breed; ‘sb’ for Scottish breed; and ‘ib’ for Irish breed. ‘Ob’ for other breed was used for any other combination. According to the metisnation.org website, however, there are several well-known Métis families in Ontario who are not recorded as such on this census.

For the 1911 and 1921 censuses, the enumerators were instructed to designate a Native’s tribal affiliation based on the mother.

1906 & 1916 Canada Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta

1916
  • 1916 census official date: June 1, 1916. There were a total of three schedules, but only the population schedule exists today.
  • 1916 census online: Every-name index and images for the population schedules can be found at LAC and Ancestry (.ca in Canada), and an index only at FamilySearch.org.
1906
  • 1906 census official date: June 24, 1906. The population schedule included a recording of livestock as well in columns 14-18.
  • 1906 census online: Every-name index and images for the population schedules can be found at LAC, Ancestry (.ca in Canada), and Automated Genealogy, and an index only at FamilySearch.org.

1870 Census for Manitoba

  • Official census date: July 16, 1870
  • 1870 census online: Search at LAC
  • LAC About Page for the 1870 census

Census Forms

It’s good practice to copy each line of a census record pertaining to your family onto a blank census form. This helps in a couple of ways:

We hardly ever look at a census record only once. By neatly copying onto a blank chart, it allows you to only have to struggle to read the record once.

By copying each piece of information onto a chart, it forces you to pay attention to every detail presented about your ancestor on that document. You will find yourself paying attention to things that you might have skipped over when struggling to read the original census record.

You can download forms from the following websites:

1921 and 1916 blank census forms in English from globalgenealogy.com

From Ancestry.com (Scroll to the bottom of page):

  • 1911 census forms in French and English
  • 1911 A1 census form with column headings in both English and French
  • 1901 census forms in French and English
  • 1906 census forms for Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta with column headings in both English and French

FamilySearch.org provides forms for the 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901 censuses.

1901 Blank Census Form

1901 blank census form from familysearch.org

Census Tools $$: 1851 to 1901 national censuses

GenealogyGenius forms: 1901, 1906, 1911, and 1916 censuses

Brute Force Genealogy forms: This form helps you keep track of a family throughout the various census years.

Free PDF Resource

Download your copy of the 3-page PDF, Canadian National Censuses, 1871-1921. It summarizes some of the information in this episode. Keep it with you on your smart phone or tablet; save it on your computer, or print it out. Whatever works best for you.

This quick reference guide contains:

  • Census Notes
  • Library and Archives Canada About Pages for Each Census
  • Search Online Censuses
  • Official Census Date
  • Enumerator Instructions
  • Online Census Forms

To get your freebie, just go to maplestarsandstripes.com/37freebie, type in your email address, and I’ll send you the link to the PDF.

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2 comments on “MSS-037-Canadian National Censuses, 1871-1921

  1. Ruth

    Show notes re 1871 census: “It included a person’s age, which was rounded up to age at next birthday, year and place of birth, and month and place of death.”

    I am confused about this.
    The LAC site implies that the opposite is the case in 1871 (http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1871/Pages/about-census.aspx):
    “Column 9. Age

    At last birthday.”

    Could you clear this up? Thanks very much, Ruth

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      Thank you, Ruth, for catching that. I also checked the original enumerators’ instructions, and it does mean age at last birthday. I’m not sure how that snuck in there, but I’m glad you caught it.

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