How the Census Was Collected
The 1901 Census marked the fourth regularly scheduled collection of national statistics. It officially began March 31, 1901.
A total of 351 commissioners were appointed to coordinate the census. Reporting to the commissioners, 8,800 enumerators were then assigned to a clearly defined area. In some cases, members of the North West Mounted Police were used as enumerators.
Enumerators visited 206 census districts, divided into 3,204 sub-districts. These units were made up of cities, towns, groups of townships, Indian reserves, and other less well-defined areas.
Enumerators collected information for 5,371,315 individuals distributed as follows:
- British Columbia (178,657)
- Manitoba (255,211)
- New Brunswick (331,120)
- Nova Scotia (459,574)
- Ontario (2,182,947)
- Prince Edward Island (103,259)
- Quebec (1,648,898)
- Territories (211,649)
The enumeration data were collected using 11 documents, known as schedules, which included a total of 561 questions. Only Schedules 1 and 2 have been entirely preserved.
- Schedule 1, Population
- Schedule 2, Buildings and lands, churches and schools
- Schedule 3, Deaths
- Schedule 4, Farm land, fruits and plantations
- Schedule 5, Field products
- Schedule 6, Livestock and animal products
- Schedule 7, Agricultural values
- Schedule 8, Manufacturers
- Schedule 9, Forest products and furs
- Schedule 10, Fisheries
- Schedule 11, Mines
Enumerators used four additional special forms to account for the various situations they might encounter:
- Persons temporarily absent
- Persons such as boarders and lodgers not present when the enumerator called and of whom particulars could not be given by the head of the household
- Cheese and butter products
- Manufacturers of clay products
From Paper to Microfilm
In 1955, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics was authorized by the Public Records Committee to microfilm and destroy the original paper records of the 1901 Census. As a result, only a microfilm copy of the census exists as an archival holding. The microfilming of these records was not of consistent quality and not all images are readable.
The digitized images found on the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website have been made by scanning the microfilms of the 1901 Census. As exact copies, a page that was unreadable on microfilm will also be unreadable on your computer screen. Title pages from the microfilm have not been scanned, and contained this information:
- Census year (i.e. 1901)
- Province or territory
- District number and name
- Sub-district number and name
- Number of pages in the sub-district. The pages are not always ordered consecutively and in some cases may not exist.
These records and those of previous censuses are described in the Statistics Canada fonds, formerly Record Group 31 (RG31).
Column Headings and Interpretation
Schedule 1 - Population
Numbered in the Order of Visitation
Column 1. Dwelling house
A count of the houses. To be numbered in the order visited by the enumerator.
Column 2. Family or household
A count of the family or household. Two or more families that occupied the same house were to be numbered separately.
Column 3. Name of each person in the family, or household on March 31, 1901
Was to be entered with the surname (or last name) first.
Column 4. Sex
Denoted by the letter “m” for male and “f” for female.
Column 5. Colour*
- Denoted by the letter “w” for whites (people of European descent), “r” for red (Native Canadians), “b” for black (people of African descent), “y” for yellow (people of Japanese or Chinese descent).
- Children who were of mixed Caucasian and other heritage (that is, red, black or yellow) were to be designated as members of the appropriate non-white race.
* These terms were used by the enumerators in 1901 and do not reflect current usage when describing a person’s background.
Column 6. Relation to head of family or household
- The head of the family (or household or institution) was to be entered as such (that is, Head), with the remaining members of the group indicated through their relation to the Head (wife, son, daughter, servant, boarder, lodger, partner, etc.).
- Those persons in an institution could be described as an officer, inmate, patient, prisoner, pupil, etc.
Column 7. Single, married, widowed or divorced
Denoted by the letter “s” for single, “m” for married, “w” for widowed and “d” for divorced.
Column 8. Month and date of birth
To be noted through the first syllable for each month, except in the cases of May, June or July, which were to be written in full.
Column 9. Year of birth
To be entered in full for each individual.
Column 10. Age at last birthday
- The number of years completed before March 31, 1901.
- For children under one year of age, fractions were used (for example, for 2 months, "2/12" was indicated).
Citizenship, nationality and religion
Column 11. Country or place of birth (if in Canada, specify province or territory, and add “r” for rural or “u” for urban)
- For people born outside of Canada, the name of the country of origin (for example, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, France, etc.).
- For people born in Canada, the name of the province or territory.
Column 12. Year of immigration to Canada
The year the person moved to Canada from another country.
Column 13. Year of naturalization
If individuals had applied for their citizenship papers, but had not yet gained full citizenship, they were to be marked as “pa”.
Column 14. Racial or tribal origin
- Generally traced through the father.
- Aboriginal people were to have their “racial or tribal origin” traced through their mothers, with the specific name of the First Nation entered.
Column 15. Nationality
Column 16. Religion
- The word “Canadian” for those who lived in Canada and who had acquired rights of citizenship.
- For Non-Canadians, the country of their birth, or the country to which they professed allegiance.
- The religion to which an individual claimed to belong written in full.
- Abbreviations were used if the name was too long.
Principal profession or trade
Column 17. Profession, occupation or trade or means of living of each person (if person has retired from profession or trade, add “r” for retired)
- Only the main profession was to be recorded.
- The branch of industry, trade, etc. in which the person worked was to be given.
Column 18. Living on own means
For people living on income from other sources than salary, like superannuation, annuities, pensions, etc.
Column 19. Employer
A person whose work was done by other individuals; that person paid those individuals a salary or wage.
Column 20. Employee
Someone who worked for salary or wages and was paid by others.
Column 21. Working on own account
Column 22. Working at trade in factory or home
"F" specified work in a factory, "h" for work in a home, and "fh" for work in both factory and home.
Column 23. Months employed at trade in factory
Number of months employed in a trade at a factory.
Column 24. Months employed at trade in home
Number of months in their trade in a home.
Column 25. Months employed in other occupation than trade in factory or home
For those who were employed in an occupation other than their trade, or if an individual who usually worked at a trade was engaged in any employment.
Column 26. Earnings from occupation or trade $
Column 27. Extra earnings (from other than chief occupation or trade) $
Education and language of each person 5 years of age and over
Column 28. Months at school in year
For those over 5 and under 21 years old.
Column 29. Can read
Column 30. Can write
Column 31. Can speak English
Column 32. Can speak French
Column 33. Mother tongue (if spoken)
- The individual’s native language.
- To be entered if the person spoke the language, whether fluently or not.
Column 34. Infirmities (if infirmity dates from childhood, add “from childhood”)
a. Deaf and Dumb
c. Unsound mind.
The degree of the infirmity needed to have reached the stage of incapacity to be noted.
Schedule 2 - Buildings and lands, churches and schools
Reference to Schedule 1
Column 1. Page
Column 2. Line
Column 3. Place of habitation:
a. Name of municipality, township or parish
b. Range or concession, lot, or cadastral number
c. Street and house number
d. Other description.
Column 4. In construction
Column 5. Vacant
Column 6. Inhabited
Column 7. Special or legal name
Column 8. Number of buildings
Column 9. Number of families in house or institution
Column 10. Number of rooms in house or institution for each family
Column 11. Number of inmates in institution, exclusive of families, officers and employees
Real estate owned
Column 12. Grand total of acres
Column 13. Number of town or village lots
Column 14. Number of dwelling houses
Column 15. Number of stores, warehouses, etc.
Column 16. Number of barns, stables, and other outbuildings
Column 17. Number of silos and capacity in cubic feet
Column 18. Number of manufacturing establishments
Real estate leased or otherwise held
Column 19. Grand total of acres
Column 20. Number of town or village lots
Column 21. Number of dwelling houses.
Column 22. Number of stores, warehouses, etc.
Column 23. Number of barns, stables, and other outbuildings
Column 24. Number of silos and capacity in cubic feet
Column 25. Number of manufacturing establishments
Church or place of worship
Column 26. Religious denomination
Column 27. Number of communicants
Column 28. Seating capacity of edifice
Column 29. Religious denomination
Column 30. Number of officers and teachers
Column 31. Number of scholars
Column 32. Number of rooms
Column 33. Number of teachers
Column 34. Number of scholars
Column 35. Date of visit
Column 36. The reason, if not enumerated, on first visit
Column 37. Date when enumerated
- Jan. (January)
- Feb. (February)
- Mar. (March)
- Apr. (April)
- Aug. (August)
- Sept. (September)
- Oct. (October)
- Nov. (November)
- Dec. (December)
Provinces and Territories
- Alb. (Alberta)
- B.C. (British Columbia)
- Man. (Manitoba)
- N.B. (New Brunswick)
- N.S. (Nova Scotia)
- N.W.T. (Northwest Territories)
- O. (Ontario)
- P.E.I. (Prince Edward Island)
- Q. (Quebec)
- Sask. (Saskatchewan)
- Yuk. (Yukon)
- W (White, Caucasian)
- R (Red, Native)
- B (Black, African)
- Y (Yellow, Asian)
These terms were used by the enumerators in 1901 and do not reflect current usage when describing a person’s background.
Racial or tribal origin
The use of "breed" and "half-breed" indicated a person of mixed Native and other background, as noted in the following examples that were used at that time:
- Fb (French breed)
- Eb (English breed)
- Sb (Scottish breed)
- Ib (Irish breed)
- Ob (other breed)
- Cree fb (Cree and French breed)
- B.C. (Bible Church)
- C. (of) E. (Church of England)
- C. (of) S. (Church of Scotland)
- E.M.C. (Episcopal Methodist Church)
- F.C. (Free Church - Presbyterian)
- M.E.C. (Methodist Episcopal Church)
- P.C.L.P. (Presbyterian - Canada and Lower Provinces)
- P.F.C. (Presbyterian Free Church)
- R.P. (Reformed Presbyterian)
- U.P. (United Presbyterian)
- W.M. (Wesleyan Methodist)
- Items counted as one were indicated by either a downward stroke (|) or the figure "1."
- The number “1” was written whenever YES was the answer.
- Items counted as zero were indicated by a dash (-) or the space was left blank.
- A dash (-) was written whenever NO was the answer or there was nothing to be recorded.
- Ditto marks (" or do) were used except where prohibited in the instructions.