Census returns are official Government of Canada records that enumerate the country’s population. They are an invaluable source of information as they often include the age, occupation, ethnic origin, religious denomination and the place of birth for the persons listed.

For each census, the records are arranged by province or territory, and then are divided into districts which usually correspond to counties and cities. Districts are typically divided into sub-districts, corresponding to townships, parishes and larger towns.

From 1851 to 1901, a census occurred every 10 years in Canada; this was confirmed by the British North America Act (also known as the Constitution Act, 1867). The original purpose of the census was to help determine parliamentary representation based on population.

According to the Census and Statistics Act (which received Royal Assent on May 16, 1905) a general census of Canada was to occur in 1911, and every 10 years thereafter, and a census of population and agriculture was to be taken in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1906, and every 10 years thereafter.

Some of the content is protected by third party copyright and is subject to additional restrictions as to its reproduction and use. Please see Terms and Conditions to obtain additional information.

Censuses available at Library and Archives Canada

Library and Archives Canada holds an extensive collection of census records, from 1666 to 1916.

Prior to the first Dominion Census in 1871, census enumerations were conducted in different areas in various years. Many of those early records have not survived, including portions of the 1851 returns. As provinces joined Confederation, they were included in subsequent federal census returns, for example Prince Edward Island in 1881.

Returns prior to 1851 are usually partly nominal, listing only the heads of households or families; the other members are just counted.

Returns from 1851 to 1916 are nominal, listing each person individually, with details as to age, sex, country or province of birth, religious denomination, racial origin, occupation, marital status and education.

Consult the following list to find out the extent of Library and Archives Canada’s census records collection.

By clicking on the relevant census year, you will be able to access:

  • an online database searchable by name of person or by place that includes digitized images of the original census returns
  • only digitized images of census returns; or
  • a list sorted by locality that will provide you a microfilm reel number

For information about census returns for which you cannot click on the year, and for information about earlier census returns, consult
 Census Records Finding Aid 300 [PDF 1,670 KB]

(See: Downloadable Formats, PDF Reader)

Year Location Type
1666 Quebec Nominal
1667 Quebec Nominal
1671, 1673 Newfoundland (Plaisance only) Nominal
1671–1753 Acadia Partly nominal
1681 Quebec Nominal
1691, 1693 Newfoundland Nominal
1698, 1706, 1711 Newfoundland (Plaisance only) Partly Nominal
1704 Newfoundland Partly Nominal
1770–1838 Nova Scotia Partly nominal
1825 Quebec Partly nominal
1831 Quebec Partly nominal
1831–1849 Manitoba (Red River only) Partly nominal
1841 Prince Edward Island Partly nominal
1842 Ontario Partly nominal
1842 Quebec Partly nominal
1848 Ontario Partly nominal
1850 Ontario Partly nominal
1851 Nova Scotia Partly nominal
1851 New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec Nominal
1861 Ontario, Quebec Nominal
1861 Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island Partly nominal
1870 Manitoba Nominal
1871 New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec Nominal
1871 Ontario only Nominal
1881 Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan Nominal
1891 Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory Nominal
1901 Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory Nominal
1906 Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan Nominal
1911 Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory Nominal
1916 Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan Nominal
(Available from Ancestry.ca)
1921 Newfoundland Nominal
1935 Newfoundland Nominal
1945 Newfoundland Nominal

After 1921

Census returns after 1921 are in the custody of Statistics Canada. The Statistics Act and the Act to Amend the Statistics Act does not permit the disclosure of personal information from post-1921 census returns. The only exception is for people who require information about themselves, for pension or other legal purposes. Third parties cannot obtain information about another individual without the individual's written consent.

Under the legislation, the records will be opened for public use and transferred to Library and Archives Canada 92 calendar years after the taking of a census.

If you have questions about post-1921 census returns or the census legislation, contact the Access to Information office of Statistics Canada.

Date modified: