Chapter 6 - Census Records
The government of Canada East and West conducted a census in 1842. Another census was taken in 1848 and 1850. The first census conducted by the government of Canada for what is now known as Ontario was 1851. A census has been taken every ten years since that time. Beginning in 1956 a census has been taken every five years. The information gathered from the census enables government to plan programs for future needs. The census can provide the genealogical researcher with valuable information about their family; the neighbours and the community were they lived. The census records were microfilmed in the 1950s and then destroyed. Some parts of the census are missing. Because the microfilming was not up to archival standards some parts of the census are difficult or impossible to read. Today many of the microfilm copies have been digitized. This enables the user to enlarge pages making some of the poor copies readable. Each census has many sections but only the nominal section was generally microfilmed. Some years the agricultural section was microfilmed. The last census that is available is the 1911 census. The 1921 census is to be released in 2013.
The instructions that were given to the enumerators from 1871 are found at Global Genealogy. The Canadian Genealogy Centre has the list of the questions that are found in each of the census years. This is part of the online Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm, 1666-1901, which combines the two published catalogues (1666-1891, 1901) of census returns on microfilm. Use this to identify the relevant census districts. There are comments about missing sections and poor microfilm quality.
It is important to note not only the family of interest but also the neighbours. These people could be members of the family at the time or will be in the future. Where possible read the census for the whole enumeration district. Sometimes the enumerator added notes at the end of the district. Remember we do not know who provided the information so personal information may not be accurate. Pay particular attention to the racial origin, the religion and occupation, as these are clues about where to look for other records. Where possible compare the information from a number of census records to look for clues about family members who were born, married or died between the census years.
- Spelling could be as names sounded to the enumerator.
- Ages and dates may be incorrect.
- Sections can be missing or illegible BUT the agricultural section may be intact.
- Indexes are a guide – handwriting can be challenge for indexers
- Pages may have been microfilmed out of order.