Canada, Census 1881 (FamilySearch Historical Records)Edit This Page

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Contents

Record Description

The first national Canadian census was conducted on the day of April 4, 1881.

Census schedules were taken on large sheets of paper with preprinted rows and columns. The schedules were organized by province and then by census districts and subdistricts.

The census contains the following nine schedules arranged within subdistricts:

  • Nominal return of the living
  • Nominal return of the deaths within last twelve months
  • Return of public institutions, real estate, vehicles, and implements *Return of cultivated land, field products, and plants and fruits
  • Livestock, animal products, home-made fabrics, and furs
  • Return of industrial establishments
  • Return of products of the forest
  • Return of shipping and fisheries
  • Return of mineral products

Following the Constitution Act in 1867, census taking became a federal mandate. The first census was set for 1871 and every ten years thereafter. Therefore, the second national Canadian census was conducted in 1881. Enumeration was by census district, except for Prince Edward Island, which was enumerated by lot number. Census districts were voting districts, not counties, although most have the same names as counties. For the most part, census districts were synonymous with cities and counties, while subdistricts were synonymous with towns, townships, and city wards. Villages, small towns, and parishes were generally enumerated as part of the township in which they were located. Census district and county boundaries were not always the same.

The national government of Canada has taken censuses every ten years since 1871 and every five years since 1971. The 1871 census covers the four original provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Ontario. The first coast-to-coast census was taken in 1881. Newfoundland was not part of Canada until 1949. For Newfoundland few 19th-century censuses that list names have been found. They mostly contain statistical summaries.

Since the boundaries varied from census to census, it is not easy to tell which census district an eastern Canadian township or western Canadian village was in. Contemporary maps of the census districts have been lost or destroyed.

Fifteen partial censuses of New France and nine of Acadia were taken between 1666 and 1754.

Record Content

Census records generally contain the following information:
  • Full name
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Approximate birth year and birth place
  • Marital status
  • Occupation
  • Head of Household
  • Religion
  • Ethnic origin
  • Town, village, township, or sub-district of residence

How to Use the Records

To begin your search, it would be helpful if you knew the following information:

  • Ancestor's name
  • Approximate year and place of residence

Search the Collection

Fill in the requested information in the initial search page. This search will return a list of possible matches. Compare the information about the ancestors in the list to what you already know about your ancestors to determine if this is the correct family or person. You may need to look at several images and compare the information about the individuals listed in those images to your ancestors to make this determination. Keep in mind:

  • There may be more than one person in the records with the same name.
  • You may not be sure of your own ancestor’s name.
  • Your ancestor may have used different names or variations of their name throughout their life.

Using the Information

When you have found the information that you are looking for, the following will help aid you in your research:

As you are searching it is helpful to know such information as your ancestor’s given name and surname, some identifying information such as residence and age, and family relationships. Remember that there may be more than one person in the records with the same name as your ancestor and that your ancestor may have used nicknames or different names at different times.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

If you haven't found any information about your ancestor, the following tips may help you further your research:

  • Gazetteers published in the 1880s sometimes list the "electoral county" or census/voting district rather than the county where a city or village was located. If you still cannot determine the census district, you may need to search several neighboring census districts to find your ancestor.
  • These censuses list a large proportion of the population. Unfortunately, portions of some have been lost, and some geographical areas within the provinces were missed by the census takers.

General Information About These Records

Since the census attempted to record all the people living in a household, it may identify individuals for whom other records do not exist.

Canadian census records are the best source for quickly identifying a family group and their residence.

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Don't overlook FHL Place Canada items or FHL Keyword Canada items in the FamilySearch Library Catalog. For other libraries (local and national) or to gain access to items of interest, see Canada Archives and Libraries.

Known Issues with This Collection

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See a list of known issues, workarounds, tips, restrictions, future fixes, news and other helpful information.

For a full list of all known issues associated with this collection see the attached Wiki article. If you encounter additional problems, please email them to support@familysearch.org. Please include the full path to the link and a description of the problem in your e-mail. Your assistance will help ensure that future reworks will be considered.

Related Websites

Free online images are available at this site. Use the information found in this FamilySearch index collection to search for the image online.

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. Guidelines are available to help you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide. If you would like to get more involved join the WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Citations for this Collection

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information; that is, cite your sources. This will help people find the record again and evaluate the reliability of the source. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records. Citations are available for the collection as a whole and each record or image individually.

Collection Citation:

"Canada Census, 1881." Index. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : accessed 2014. Citing Department of Agriculture. Ottawa, Ontario: Public Archives.

Record Citation (or citation for the index entry):

The citation for a record is available with each record in this collection, at the bottom of the record screen. You can search records in this collection by visiting the search page for Canada Census, 1881.

 

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  • This page was last modified on 16 November 2014, at 20:56.
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