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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors by Althea Douglas M.A., CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Census and Directories
The Archives of Canada Hold the Census
There are Montréal head-of-household census returns for 1811 and 1813, as well as province-wide ones for 1825, 1831 and 1842, and then the nominal ones from 1851 through 1901. The Archives has published books with detailed listings: Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1666-1891, comp. Thomas A. Hillman (Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1987) and Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm, 1901, comp. Thomas A. Hillman, (Ottawa: Archives of Canada, 1993). A more concise list is “Census Records”, Tracing Your Ancestors in Canada (Ottawa: NA, revised ed. 1998), pages 14-17.
There also exist, particularly for the urban centres, “a large number of fragmentary census returns, lists of householders or residents of small localities and other documents which complement the main census returns.” These are detailed in the LAC Finding Aid 300, available on microfiche.
The 1851 census for Montréal is incomplete; only the General Hospital and suburban Wards survive. The 1861 census is a horror to use, since it consists of the individual sheets individual households filled out. Given poor handwriting and a bad pen that splattered ink, finding a family can be almost as frustrating as not finding them. By 1871 things get better, and by using Directories, even the huge 1901 becomes manageable.
The “lists of householders”, if for one of the major urban centres can also be a time-consuming and frustrating search. Even when you think you know where the family lived, you do not know how the list-maker worked. Maybe he sat in one place - a tavern - and waited for citizens to stop by. When working in these big-city records, warn clients that time charges can be high and odds may be low, but luck or serendipity do kick in occasionally.
The Library Has the Directories
To use the census and most other lists efficiently, you should consult the city directories and find the family’s addresses, preferably before and after the year of the listing - people tend to move often in Québec cities. Be sure to check in the Street section, note the Ward or district, as well as the names of the cross streets, and anything else that will help locate the right “division” of what are often very large records.
Directories are probably the most useful genealogical tool when hunting down the residents of the major urban areas. There are a few early ones for Québec City, and Montréal’s first directory dates from 1819, but publication was not an annual event for many decades. By the time of Confederation however, you will find annual directories for the large cities as well as rural or county Farmer’s Directories.
The Library’s bibliography: Canadian Directories, 1790-1987 , tells what exists and where it is held. The listings in the Genealogy and Local History to 1900/ … Bibliography , from the CIHM-ICMH, indicates which are available in microform and so can be obtained through inter-institutional loan services. Be aware that gazetteers and atlases may include directories, e.g. Smith’s 1867 Eastern Townships Gazetteer and General Business Directory which described every community, large and small, and listed businesses and many residents. Three Rivers/Trois Rivières and Sorel are often found in the same Directory, as are Québec City and Levis; Ottawa, Hull and Gatineau; and Montréal with its surrounding suburbs. Sometimes, however, they are not, so check just what geographic area is covered.
The Library of Canada probably has most of the assorted indexes to censuses that have been compiled and published. Québec is not as well served as either New Brunswick or Ontario, but there are some. Ralph Neil Broadhurst, of Calgary (Kintracers) has published:
- Index to the 1871 census of Québec: Brome County (1992)
- Index to the 1871 census of Québec: Missisquoi County (1992)
- Index to the 1871 census of Québec: Shefford County (1992)
- Index to the 1881 census of Québec: Shefford County (1992)
The 1871 Census of Stanstead Co., has been indexed, and the Québec Family History Society will sell you these as well as:
- 1851 Census Index Hemmingford Twp., Hemmingford County
- 1851 Census Index, Parish of Sherrington, Napierville County
- 1851 Census Index Huntingdon Village, Huntingdon County
- 1851 Census Index Shipton and Windsor, Richmond County
Glenn Eker has published a series of detailed indexes and databases of individuals of Jewish origins drawn from the census returns:
- Jewish residents of Montréal and Québec City in the 1871-1901 censuses of Canada (Avotaynu, Inc., c. 1993), 2 microfiche
- Jewish residents of Greater Québec province, excluding Greater Montréal and Québec City, in the 1871-1901 censuses of Canada (Teaneck, New Jersey: Avotaynu, Inc., c. 1994), 1 microfiche.
He has also indexed the Maritimes (1871-1901) and Toronto (1861-1901).
Census for the Township of Hull, L.C. has been “arranged in alphabetical order by Bruce S. Elliott” (1973), and the Ottawa Branch of the OGS has published a series of census indexes for townships across the river in Ontario. More are being completed so do check catalogues and bibliographies for new additions.
Note: The Canadian Census for 1881 (4 April 1881) has been indexed and is searchable on the Internet. This Index includes all individuals, giving name, age, gender, location at the time of the census, birthplace, ethnic origin, occupation, religion, marital status and notations.
Warning: Since there are pages missing from some returns, because some ink had faded to illegibility, and the microfilming was not always of the best, names are inevitably missing. The U.S. census for 1880 is also available, and should make it far easier to trace the many Canadians who moved to “the States”.
The Archives Division has digitized the entire 1901 census and posted it on the Internet, however it is not indexed and can be searched only by place.
The Archives holds the records of the Chief Electoral Officer for Canada (RG 113) which include lists of voters prepared during Federal election years since 1935. Available on microfilm, they are arranged by electoral district. See Tracing Your Ancestors in Canada, page 17. The ANQ holds some Poll Books, most would be at regional branches.
Also by electoral district and polling division are the 1940 National Registration Records are held by Statistics Canada. Having been compiled under the War Measures Act, once a person has been dead for twenty years, or was born over 110 years ago, these can be released - for a fairly hefty fee. There are a number of caveats , but for anyone over 16 in 1940, or who turned 16 in the next few years, it is a fairly recently available source with a great deal of information.
- Described in Census Returns...1666-1891, page xiv.
- For tips on using the 1901 census see Douglas, Here Be Dragons, too! page 26.
- Available on 28 microfiches is Lovell's Canadian Dominion Directory for 1871 Containing names of professionals and business men, and other inhabitants, of the cities, towns and villages, throughout the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island ... corrected to January 1871 (Montreal: J. Lovell ).
- Bond, Mary E., Canadian Directories, 1790-1987: a bibliography and place-name index, 3 volumes (Ottawa: Library of Canada, 1989).
- Genealogy and Local History to 1900: a Bibliography ..., compiled by J. Brian Gilchrist and Clifford Duxbury Collier (Ottawa: CIHM-ICHM, 1995) Old and rare Canadian books, periodicals and serials available on microfiche.
- The Eastern Townships Gazetteer and General Business Directory ... Containing Also Much Useful Information of a Miscellaneous Character (St Johns/St-Jean Quebec: Smith and Co., Proprietors of the "News", 1867) Reprinted by Page-Sangster Inc., 1967.
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Research: Quebec Non-Francophone Ancestors offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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