Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Canadian Census Enumerator Instructions

Many times as we do our research into the lives of our ancestors we come across census entries that cause us to scratch our head in bewilderment and confusion. Just why did the enumerator record the religion as "N.C." or the birth place as "U.C."? There must be a rational reason and many times there is. First of all, make sure you visit the Censuses page at Library and Archives Canada and read the various sections, especially the "About" page, for clues concerning abbreviations and when the enumerations took place.

However, the next challenge is to find out what were the instructions given to the enumerators. For those censuses taking place after the 1867 Confederation you can find PDF copies of the proclamations and/or manuals on several web sites such as the Internet Archive, Library and Archives Canada, or even the University of Ottawa.

For those censuses taken before Canadian Confederation it becomes a little more of a challenge. Fortunately the Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), Département de Démographie, Université de Montréal as part of their historical census database construction projects for the Canadian censuses of 1851/52 and 1881 has pulled together some transcriptions to help understand those censuses.

Those excerpts may be found in David P. Gagan's article "Enumerator's Instructions for the Census of Canada 1852 and 1861" in the "Histoire Sociale/Social History", Vol. VII, No. 14 (November 1974). Use WorldCat to see if you can find a copy close to you to peruse.

For those more recent census enumerations of Canada such as those taken in 1926, 1931, 1936, 1941, and 1946 a search of the Internet Archive can locate the enumerator manuals.

Tip: Save those PDF files to your computer just in case they disappear from the various web sites.


  1. This is really helpful. Thanks for posting these links all together like this.

  2. This is very helpful; I've a bunch of Canadian ancestors. Thanks for including all the links. I look forward to going through them. I wanted to tell you that I've included it in my NoteWorthy Reads post for this week: http://jahcmft.blogspot.com/2015/03/noteworthy-reads-5.html