Laying the Groundwork- Census Records Part 2

Last week we looked at what kind of information can be found on a census return. Now we\’re going to look at where to find them.


 The LAC is the first place any genealogist should go. They have all census records from 1851 to 1916 digitized, as well as the link to the free access to the 1921 census on Ancestry. A word of caution though. They don\’t use soundex. Make sure you enter several variations of surnames, and use wildcards. For example, when I enter MALLAIS into the 1911 census search engine I get 66 results Canada wide. When I enter MAILLET I get 3,700 results that don\’t include the 66 from MALLAIS.

Ancestry has 1851 to 1916 for subscribers, and 1921 is free to everyone. It is better than LAC in that they will do soundex, but the downside is their indexing. Some years are better than others. Be warned especially if you are looking for French Canadian names. Sometimes you\’ll have to do it the old fashioned way by browsing instead of a name search. One memorable example is my great grandfather Patrice Joseph MALLAIS. In 1911 he was indexed as PAHIQUE MALLARS, of all things. Every time I tried to search for him in 1911 I got his nephew Patrice Mallais. It wasn\’t until I started browsing the area where I knew he lived, page by page, that I found my Patrice.

FamilySearch has indexed from 1851-1916. There are no images available. It is a good resource in that FamilySearch indexing is very good. However, you will not be able to see the wealth of information like I listed last week in the entries for Arthur WOOD. They have indexed only certain information. This is what it said for Arthur in 1911:

Arthur Wood

Canada Census, 1911
Name Arthur Wood
Event Type Census
Event Date 1911
Event Place Peel Sub-Districts 32-39, Ontario, Canada
Gender Male
Age (Estimated) 47
Marital Status Married
Relationship to Head of Household Head
Birth Date Sep 1864
Birthplace England
\”Recensement du Canada de 1911,\” database, FamilySearch( : 2 March 2015), Arthur Wood, 1911; citing Census, Peel Sub-Districts 32-39, Ontario, Canada, Library and Archives of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 2,418,517.
It also did show the entire household, with links to each person\’s information.

This site has 1851, 1901, 1906, and 1921 transcribed. They are at various stages of completion. There are no images. By following the link above to their site, you can see what they have for each. An interesting side project of theirs is a huge linking project. One day you\’ll be able to type in a name, and all census records (and some other databases) for that person will be there for you to view.

Though mainly for UK research, Find My Past has started building a Canadian record collection. Right now you can access transcriptions of 1901 and 1911.

Pre 1851

There are very few census records pre 1851. Most of those that have survived were locally done with a specific purpose in mind. They would most likely fall under the category of tax and poll lists.
Library and Archives Canada has census images for 1825 and 1831 for Lower Canada (Quebec). They also have 1842 for Canada East (Quebec) and Canada West (Ontario).
Ancestry has links to the Family Search images of the 1825 Lower Canada Census and the 1842 Canada East census. They also have the images for the 1770 Nova Scotia Census, indexed and copied by Bernice Richard for the Chicago Genealogical Society. The final database in their Canada census collection is the \”Nova Scotia, Canada, Census, Assessment and Poll Tax Records, 1770-1795, 1827\”. There are links that take you to the Nova Scotia Archives\’ images.
Family Search has images for 1825, 1831, and 1842.
Find My Past has images and transcriptions for the 1825 Lower Canada Census.
Among the many BMD\’s in the Drouin Collection, are some partial census records. Ancestry has some of these. They are NOT indexed, so you will have to browse through the Acadia Drouin collection. You can also access Drouin records at Genealogy Quebec.
You can also try looking at various Provincial Archives and local Societies for early census and tax roll records. Remember that it may not be digitized online. You may have to use interlibrary loan if available, or go there in person.
A Final Note

Just a few things to keep in mind when researching census records:
  1. Language: If you have French Canadian ancestry, then you know what I\’m talking about. Many French names were anglicized by census takers. Always look at the top of the page to see the name of the enumerator. If they were English and doing a predominately French area, you will see this a lot. Going back to Patrice Mallais, in 1921 he was written as Patrick Malley. In 1861, my ancestor Guillaume Fournier was written down as William Fourney by the census taker.
  2. Name Variations; A lot of people were illiterate, and therefore probably could not spell their own name for the census taker. So he wrote it how he thought it was spelled. Just because you spell your name the way you do, doesn\’t mean that the census enumerator did. So look for different variations. Don\’t just try SMITH, but try SMYTH too.
  3. Availability: Not all census records survived. Library and Archives Canada has great explanations on what is and isn\’t available for each census. I was crushed to learn that none of Gloucester County, New Brunswick survived for 1851. A huge part of my tree had settled there.

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