Canadian census records officialy go back to 1666, when King Louis XIV requested a count of the number of landowners in New France. The first census conducted by the national government of Canada didn't occur until 1871, however, and has been taken every ten years since (every five years since 1971). To protect the privacy of living individuals, Canadian census records are kept confidential for a period of 92 years; the most recent Canadian census to be released to the public is 1911.
The 1871 census covered the four original provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. 1881 marked the first coast-to-coast Canadian census. One major exception to the concept of a "national" Canadian census, is Newfoundland, which was not a part of Canada until 1949, and thus was not included in most Canadian census returns. Labrador was, however, enumerated in the 1871 Census of Canada (Quebec, Labrador District) and the 1911 Canadian Census (Northwest Territories, Labrador Sub-district).
What You Can Learn From Canadian Census Records
National Canadian Census, 1871-1911
The 1871 and later Canadian census records list the following information for each individual in the household: name, age, occupation, religious affiliation, an birthplace (province or country). The 1871 and 1881 Canadian censuses also list the father's origin or ethnic background. The 1891 Canadian census asked for the parents' birthplaces, as well as identification of French Canadians. It is also important as the first national Canadian census to identify the relationship of individuals to the head of household. The 1901 Canadian census is also a hallmark for genealogy research as it asked for the complete birth date (not just the year), as well as the year the person immigrated to Canada, the year of naturalization, and the father's racial or tribal origin.
Census DatesThe actual census date varied from census to census, but is important in helping to determine an individual's probable age. The dates of the censuses are as follows:
- 1871 - 2 April
- 1881 - 4 April
- 1891 - 6 April
- 1901 - 31 March
- 1911 - 1 June
Where to Find the Canadian Census Online1871 Canadian Census - In 1871, Canada's first national census was conducted, including the four original provinces of Nova Scotia, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Quebec.
Ancestry.com - 1871 Census of Canada) (index and images) Subscription
World Vital Records - 1871 Canadian Census Index (Ontario) Subscription
FamilySearch Record Search - Canada Census 1871 (index only) Free!
1881 Canadian Census - Over 4 million individuals were enumerated in Canada as of April 4, 1881, in the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Northwest Territories. Because many Aboriginals were spread over a great extent of the unorganized territory of Canada, they may or may not have been recorded in all districts.
FamilySearch - 1881 Census Index for Canada (index and transcription) Free!
Collections Canada - Census of Canada, 1881 (index and images) Free!
Ancestry.com - 1881 Canadian Census of Canada (index and images) Subscription
1891 Canadian Census - The 1891 Canadian Census, taken on the 6th of April 1891 in both English and French, is the third national census of Canada. It covers the seven provinces of Canada (British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontairo, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec), as well as the Northwest Territories, which at the time was comprised of the districts of Alberta, Assiniboia East, Assiniboia West, Saskatchewan, and Mackenzie River.
Ancestry.com - 1891 Canadian Census Images & Index Subscription
FamilySearch Record Search - Canada Census 1891 (index only) Free!
1901 Canadian Census - Canada's fourth national census, the Canadian Census of 1901, covers the seven provinces of Canada (British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontairo, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec) in existence at the time, as well as the Territories, a large area that encompassed what later became Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and Northwest Territories. Digital images of the actual census records are available for free online viewing from ArchiviaNet, Library and Archives Canada. Since these images don't include a name index, volunteers with the Automated Genealogy project have completed a Canada-wide name index of the 1901 census - also searchable online for free.
ArchiviaNet - 1901 Canadian Census Images Free!
Automated Genealogy - 1901 Canadian Census Index Free!
Ancestry.com - 1901 Canadian Census Images & Index Subscription
1911 Canadian Census - The 1911 Canadian Census covers the nine provinces of Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) and two territories (the Yukon and the Northwest Territories) that were then part of Confederation. Digitized images of the 1911 census are available for free online viewing at ArchiviaNet, the research tool of Library and Archives Canada. These images are only searchable by location, however, and not by name. Volunteers have stepped up to produce an every-name index, which is also online for free at Automated Genealogy.
ArchiviaNet - 1911 Canadian Census Images Free!
Automated Genealogy - 1911 Canadian Census Index Free!
Ancestry.com - 1911 Canadian Census Index & Images Subscription
Searching the Canadian Census in One Step (1851, 1901, 1906, 1911)