Censuses

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.

Census Available at LAC

Information about earlier census returns can be found in the Census Records Finding Aid 300 [PDF 1,670 KB] (See: Downloadable Formats, PDF Reader).

There are two types of census returns:
  • nominal – lists all members of households or families
  • partly nominal – lists only the heads of households or families. The other members are just counted. 
 
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
 
1891
 
City of Victoria, British Columbia
 
Partly 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
 
1921
(Available from Ancestry.ca)
 
Canada
 
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.
 
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