Canada, Census 1881 (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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==== General Information About These Records  ====
==== General Information About These Records  ====
Be aware there may be inaccuracies such as altered spellings, misinterpretations, and optical character recognition errors if the information was scanned.  
Be aware there may be inaccuracies such as altered spellings and misinterpretation errors if the information was scanned.  
Since the census attempted to record all the people living in a household, it may identify individuals for whom other records do not exist.  
Since the census attempted to record all the people living in a household, it may identify individuals for whom other records do not exist.  

Revision as of 21:38, 26 April 2013

FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at
Access the records: Canadian Census 1881 .


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. Find microfilm numbers of Acadian censuses and book call numbers of published transcriptions in the Locality Search of the Family History Library Catalog under:

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the information published in Historical Records collections. Sources include the author, custodian, publisher, and archive for the original records.

"Canada Census, 1881." Index. FamilySearch. : accessed 2013. Citing Department of Agriculture. Ottawa, Ontario: Public Archives.

Record Content

These 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.

Using the Information

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

  • Use the birthplace and age given in the census for each person to search the Canada, Births and Baptisms, 1661-1959 collection for a birth record.
  • If there is a spouse of your ancestor listed in this census, search in the Canada, Marriages 1661-1949 collection for their marriage date.
  • If the census lists their religious affiliation, search the church records for the province that your ancestor is listed in.

Unable to Find Your Ancestor?

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

  • Search available indexes before using the census records. As indexes may be incomplete or incorrect, if you have reason to believe your ancestor should have been in the census, search the census even if your ancestor is not in the index.
  • 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.
  • When there are no census indexes, look for your ancestor’s location in other kinds of indexes. See Canada Church Records, Canada Directories, Canada Emigration and Immigration, Canada Genealogy, and Canada Land and Property Records and in Wiki articles of the provinces.

General Information About These Records

Be aware there may be inaccuracies such as altered spellings and misinterpretation errors if the information was scanned.

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.

Known Issues with This Collection

Important.png Problems with this collection?
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 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. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. 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.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.