Western Libraries

Canada - Census

Canada - Census

Prepared by The D. B. Weldon Library
Research & Instructional Services

 

Table of Contents

Types of Census

Manuscript/Nominal

Aggregate

Chronological List

Guide

Data Files

Enumeration Maps

 

The census is a reliable source of information describing the characteristics of Canada’s people, dwellings and agricultural operations.

Print copies of Canada's Census can be found on the Census shelves in the Government Publications area on the First floor.

What type of census do you need?

There are two distinct types of census, the Census of Population and the Census of Agriculture.
The British North America (BNA) Act of 1867 determined that a census would be taken every 10 years starting in 1871. Starting in 1896 in Manitoba a separate Census of Agriculture was also conducted every 10 years but mid decade. Alberta and Saskatchewan were to the Census of the Agriculture added in 1906, and by 1956 the entire country was included.

Census of Population:

There are two types of Census of Population,  manuscript/nominal and the aggregate census:

  • For historical research on individuals or groups of people in specific communities -- use the Manuscript/Nominal Census
  • For genealogical research (finding records of individuals) -- use the Manuscript/Nominal Census
  • For statistics -- use the Aggregate Census
Are all Censuses the same?

If you were to compare the 1871 and 1981 censuses you would notice many differences. One difference is in the type and number of questions asked. Other differences relate to methodology and publishing changes.

Questions asked:

A guide to the questions asked in various censuses can be found in the 1996 Census Handbook DBW govt census HA 741.5 1996 92-C352 (see pages 40-45).

Also refer to the 2001 Census Handbook DBW govt census, HA741.5 2001 92-C379 and online.

Decennial (10th year) vs. Quinquennial (5th year) Census:

Census

Frequency

First Taken

# Questions Asked

Questionnaire

Decennial

10 years (decade) 
e.g. 1981, 1991

1851

more

both long & short

Quinquennial

10 years (mid-decade) 
e.g. 1986, 1996

1956

fewer

short only*

* Exception: 1986 quinquennial census used both a long and a short questionnaire.

Sampling:

Data is collected from citizens via a questionnaire.
Data for the housing censuses of 1941 and 1951 was obtained by asking specific questions of a sample (10% in 1941, 20% in 1951) of the total population.
The 1961 census was the first year that a systematic sample (20%) of the population was asked detailed questions (long questionnaire) in addition to the basis questions (short questionnaire) asked of 100% of the population.
This sampling procedure has continued to the present, with the size of the sample changing to 33% for the 1971 and 1976 censuses and returning to 20% with the 1981 census. In remote areas of the country, 100% of the population is given the long questionnaire.

Census tracts:

Census tracts are small numbered areas established within large urban communities. Census tract publications which list statistics for each of the numbered census tracts were first produced in 1951; however, there was a housing atlas based on 1941 census data which presented selected data on housing and households superimposed on city maps. See Chronological List of Census Publications below.

Births and deaths:

Statistics on births and deaths were collected by the census prior to 1911. From 1911 on these statistics have been collected as "vital statistics" by each province.

Industries and retail establishments:

Various types of statistics on primary industries, and the retail and wholesale trade were included in the census up to 1971. Censuses from 1976 to the present have only asked questions concerning population, housing and agriculture.

Manuscript / Nominal Census

The manuscript/nominal census consists of the forms as they were completed in script (handwriting) by the enumerators who asked the questions of the respondents. The information is arranged by household, enabling you to link census characteristics to specific individuals. The National Archives is required to wait 92 years before releasing the manuscript returns. Weldon Library has the Ontario manuscript returns for 1842, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901. Microfilm for the manuscript returns can be found in the yellow cabinets in the Government Publications section of the Microform Centre (Ground Floor) at the following code numbers:

1842

Census Returns, 1842 - Canada West DBW govt mfilm  CA1 BS98 C242

1851

Census Returns, 1851 - Ontario
DBW govt mfilm  CA1 BS98 C251 and Census Returns, 1851 - Ontario...
DBW govt mfilm  CA1 BS98 C252

1861

Census Returns, 1861 - Ontario
DBW govt mfilm  CA1 BS98 C261

1871

Census Returns, 1871 - Ontario
DBW govt mfilm  CA1 BS98 C272

1881

Census of Canada, 1881 - Ontario
DBW govt mfilm  CA1 BS98 C281

1891

Census Returns, 1891 - Ontario
DBW govt mfilm  CA1 BS98 C291

1901

Census Returns, 1901 - Ontario
DBW govt mfilm  CA1 BS98 C301

Printed guides indicate which reel includes which municipalities.

1842-1861

Check-list of Ontario Census Returns 1842-1871
DBW ref quick JL 103.9.A723 1963.C54

1871-1891

Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1666-1891
DBW ref quick JL 103.9.A723 1987.C38

1901

Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1901
DBW ref quick JL 103.9.A723 1992.C38

NOTE: The D.B. Weldon Library has the microfilm reels for Ontario only. Reels for other provinces can be borrowed from the National Library in Ottawa. Weldon Library has reel guides for some of the census years. These guides identify which geographic areas are contained in which reel.

The Ontario Genealogical Society is preparing personal name indexes to the 1871 Ontario census. These can be found under the title, Index to the 1871 Census of Ontario... .

Aggregate Census - Published Volumes

Published reports exist for each census. These sets of reports include information compiled/aggregated at the county, township and urban levels. These reports do not include details on specific individuals.

NOTE: There are two things to be aware of when you are looking for information in the census:

  • every census is arranged differently
  • almost every census has some type of guide (sometimes this guide may be part of the census reports and sometimes it is published separately; see Chronological List of Census Publications listed below).

Chronological List of Census Publication:

The three provinces of Canada (Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick) conducted a census in 1851 establishing the decennial (10 year) enumeration pattern. In 1956 the first "mini census" established an additional (5 year) pattern.

Census

Index(es)

Pre-1851

  • Volume 1 of the 1931 census includes a guide to early census information
  • See "Chronological summary of population growth ...1605-1931" p.133-153
  • See "Tabular statement of census and pre-censal records of Canada, prior to 1931" p.1473-1511

1851/1852

  • This census has no index
  • Each section is divided into Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario)
  • Contains, in order: Vital Statistics, Church Membership, Immigration, Agriculture, Manufactures, Number of Churches, Schools, Houses, Public Buildings
  • "Enumerator's Instructions for the Census of Canada 1852 and 1861" included in article from Histoire Sociale/Social History (see Reference Staff for copy - in Gov Pub Staff Manual v.1, Census #3)
  • Census Day: January 12, 1852

1860/1861

  • Each volume has a table of contents at the start of the volume
  • Volume 1 has statistics on individuals
  • Volume 2 has statistics on agriculture, buildings and industries
  • "Enumerator's Instructions for the Census of Canada 1852 and 1861" included in article from Histoire Sociale/Social History (see Reference Staff for copy - in Gov Pub Staff Manual v.1, Census #3)

1870/1871

  • Each volume has a table of contents at the start of the volume
  • Each volume has a detailed subject index at the end of the volume
  • Volume 4 has a place name index on p. 416
  • Census Day: April 2,

1881

  • Each volume has a table of contents at the start of the volume
  • Each volume has a detailed subject index at the end of the volume
  • Census Day: April 4, 1881

1891

  • Each volume has a table of contents at the start of the volume
  • Each volume has a detailed subject index at the end of the volume
  • Census Day: April 5, 1891

1901

  • Best approach is through the subject index at the back of each volume
  • Place names have a separate index at the back of Volumes l and 2, and are included in the general index in Volume 3 under the headings "Towns and villages" and "Cities and towns"
  • Description of schedules and instructions to enumerators can be found in
    Census of Canada, 1901 - Population
    DBW govt census HA 741.5 1901 98-01F01,
    p. vii-xxi
  • Census Day: March 31, 1901

1911

  • Each volume has a table of contents at the start of the volume.
  • Volume 3 has a subject index on p. 419; it covers "Manufactures" and includes place names under the headings "Census districts", "Cities, towns and villages"
  • Volume 1 has a place name index on p. 558.
  • Census Day: June 1, 1911

1921

  • Each volume has a table of contents at the start of the volume
  • Volume 1 has a place name index on pp. 777-859
  • This census does not include statistics on the Fur Trade, Forestry, Fisheries, Minerals, Manufactures, Trade and Commerce. Statistics on these subjects for this time period can be found in the1921 edition of the
    Canada Year Book
    DBW govt HA 748.9.A2 11-C202
  • A copy of the census questionnaire can be found in Census of Canada, 1921 - Population... DBW govt census HA 741.5 1921 98-C21F01, p.xl+
  • Census Day: June 1, 1921

1931

  • There is a subject index to all of the 1931 census on p. 1512 of Volume 1
  • An index to the entire set of volumes is on the page facing the title page at the beginning of each volume
  • Each volume has its own table of contents at the start of the volume
  • A copy of the census questionnaire can be found in Census of Canada, 1931 - Summary
    DBW govt census HA 741.5 1931 98-C31F01, p.1445+
  • Census Day: June 1, 1931

1941

  • Volume 1 contains a table of contents for all 1941 volumes on p. 987
  • Each volume also contains its own table of contents
  • London Housing Atlas
    DBW govt census HA 741.5 1941 98-M19
  • A copy of the census questionnaire can be found in Census of Canada, 1941 - General Review...
    DBW govt census HA 741.5 1941 98-C41F01, p.930+
  • Census Day: June 11, 1941

1951

  • Index to the arrangement of volumes faces the title page of each volume
  • Each volume has its own table of contents plus an introduction which defines the census terms used in the volume.
  • London is not listed as a separate census tract.
  • A copy of the census questionnaire can be found in Census of Canada, 1951 - General Review... DBW govt census HA 741.5 1951 98C51F10, p.C-4+
  • Census Day: May 31, 1951

1956

  • Population volume (vol.1) has detailed table of contents at front of that volume; this listing does not include the other volumes: Analytical Reports, Census Tracts and Agriculture
  • London census tracts can be found in
    Census of Canada, 1956 - Population...
    DBW govt census HA 741.5 1956 95-C509
  • A copy of the census questionnaire can be found in Census of Canada, 1956 - Analytical Report.. DBW govt census HA 741.5 1956 99-C510, p.A-4+

1961

1966

1971

1976

1981

1986

1991

1996

  • Statistics at national and provincial levels are on CD-ROM Nation Series DBW govt census HA 741.5 1996 93-F0020
  • Statistics for sub-provincial areas (counties, townships, cities, etc.) in "Profiles" series in paper format at DBW govt census HA 741.5 1996 95-C182 to HA 741.5 1996 95-C193 and on CD-ROM; NOTE: CD-ROM and paper copies include the same geographic areas but additional details on variables is included on CD-ROM
  • 1996 Census Catalogue: Final Edition Reference DBW govt census HA 741.5 1996 92-C350y
  • 1996 Census Dictionary: Final Edition Reference DBW govt census HA 741.5 1996 92-C351B
  • London census tracts can be found in the volume Profile of Census Tracts London...
    DBW govt census HA 741.5 1996 95-C204
  • A copy of the census questionnaire can be found in the back pocket of 1996 Census Handbook DBW govt census HA 741.5 1996 92-C352
  • Census Day: May 14

Aggregate Census - Unpublished Information

In recent years, there has also been unpublished data available from the aggregate census. In most cases this provides data for the same variables as the published census, but at finer geographic detail; however, it may also provide cross-classification or a more detailed break-down of variables.

1961

1971


1976


1981


1986


1991


1996



Guide to Geographic Levels acronyms

NOTE: Definitions of these terms can be found in the Census Dictionary.

CCS

Census Consolidated Subdivision

CD

Census Division

CMA

Census Metropolitan Area

CSD

Census Subdivision

CT

Census Tract

EA

Enumeration Area

FED

Federal Electoral District

FSA

Forward Sortation Area (first 3 digits of Postal Code)

MA

Metropolitan Area

Nation

gives total for Canada

Prov.

gives total for each province and territory

R/U

gives rural/urban breakdown

Data Files

Anyone wishing to use census data files should contact the Data Resources Library (DRL), located in Room 1004 of the Social Science Centre.

User summary tapes & basic summary tabulations contain pre-constructed tables. Public use sample tapes (PUST) & Public use microdata files (PUMS) enable you to create your own tables from the data using analysis software.

1961

User summary tapes

1971

User summary tapes
Public use sample tapes (PUST)
Labour force data
Census of Agriculture user summary tape

1976

User summary tapes
Public use sample tapes (PUST)

1981

User summary tapes
Geography tape file
Public use sample tapes (PUST)
Census of Agriculture user summary tape

1986

Basic summary tabulations
Geography tape file
Postal code conversion file   Public use microdata sample files (PUMS)

1991

Basic summary tabulations
Postal code conversion file
Public use microdata sample files (PUMS)

1996

Basic summary tabulations
Digital maps (MapInfo & Arcview)
Postal code conversion file
Public use microdata sample files (PUMS)

Enumeration Area Maps

Enumeration Area maps for the following censuses can be found in the Government Publications room which is located on the first (main) floor of The D.B. Weldon Library:

1991

London CMA DBW govt census
HA 741.5 1991 92L17

1996

London
CMA

DBW govt census
HA 741.5 1996 92-F0090

2001

London CMA

DBW govt census
HA 741.5 2001 92-F0145

Enumeration Area maps for the following censuses can be found in the Map and Data Centre (Room 1050 in the Social Science Centre).

1971

Ontario CMAs
Ontario small urban centres

1981

Ontario Federal Electoral Districts
Quebec Federal Electoral Districts
London CMA
Ontario small urban centres

1986

London CMA
Ontario regional

1991

London CMA

If you need further assistance
please contact a Library Service Desk

 

 

Return to Canada - Federal Government

Return to Government Publications Research Guide