How the Census Was Collected
In the first half of the 19th century, a series of censuses were done to determine the distribution of parliamentary representation. Shortly after the Act of Union created the Province of Canada, consisting of Canada West (present-day Ontario) and Canada East (present-day Quebec), legislators agreed about the need for a census in September 1841. It was to be completed by February 1, 1842.
Enumerators visited 17 census districts, divided into sub-districts. These units were made up of cities, towns, parishes, villages and townships. Unfortunately, not all returns have survived. The returns for eight districts and 51 sub-districts have been preserved and are accessible through this research tool.
For some districts, this census is partly nominal, meaning that only the names of the heads of families or households were collected. The other members of the families or households were counted, but not named, and totals were recorded per category. To find out which districts were partially enumerated, consult the 1842 Census of Canada West districts and sub-districts.
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 1842 Census of Canada West. 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 1842 Census of Canada West. 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. 1842)
- District number and name
- Sub-district number and name
- Page numbers for each sub-district
Column Headings and Interpretation
A pre-printed or hand-written form was used, with headings written in English.
The columns were not numbered and the headings do not appear on every page. To understand how the columns were presented, see these sample pages:
Please note that when describing ethnic origin or mental capacity, some terms were used by the enumerators in 1842 and do not reflect current usage when describing a person’s background.
Column 1. Houses with their local situations in any range, concession, street, etc.
- Houses inhabited
- Houses vacant
- Houses under construction
Column 2. Name of the head of each family
Column 3. Proprietor of real property
Column 4. Non-proprietor of real property
Column 5. Tenant entitled to vote at any election in city, town, etc.
Column 6. Trade or profession
Column 7. Total number of inmates in each family, male and female, currently residing in the house
Column 8. Number of persons belonging to the family, male or female, and temporarily absent from the province
Column 9. Number of natives of England belonging to each family
Column 10. Number of natives of Ireland belonging to each family
Column 11. Number of natives of Scotland belonging to each family
Column 12. Number of natives of Canada belonging to each family of French origin
Column 13. Number of natives of Canada belonging to each family of British origin
Column 14. Number of natives of continent of Europe or otherwise, specifying the same separately
Column 15. Number of natives of the United States of America
Column 16. Number of years each person has been in the province when not native thereof
Column 17. Number of aliens not naturalized
Column 18. Number of persons in the family, five years of age and under
Column 19. Number of persons in the family, above five and under fourteen years of age
Column 20. Male
Column 21. Female
Column 22. Number of deaf and dumb people in each family, and the occupation for which they show the greatest aptitude
Column 23. Number of blind persons in each family
Column 24. Number of idiots in each family
Column 25. Number of lunatic persons in each family
Column 26. Number of persons in each family belonging to Church of England
Column 27. Number of persons in each family belonging to Church of Scotland
Column 28. Number of persons in each family belonging to Church of Rome
Column 29. Number of British Wesleyan Methodists in each family
Column 30. Number of Canadian Wesleyan Methodists in each family
Column 31. Number of Episcopal Methodists in each family
Column 32. Number of other Methodists in each family
Column 33. Number of Presbyterians not in connection with the Church of Scotland in each family
Column 34. Number of Congregationalists or Independents in each family
Column 35. Number of Baptists and Anabaptists in each family
Column 36. Number of Lutherans in each family
Column 37. Number of Quakers in each family
Column 38. Number of Moravians and Tunkers in each family
Column 39. Number of Dutch Reformed Church in each family
Column 40. Number of Jews in each family
Column 41. Number of persons of all other religious denominations not herein enumerated in each family
Column 42. Number of male coloured persons in each family
Column 43. Number of female coloured persons in each family
Column 44. Number of male farm servants employed in each family
Column 45. Number of other male servants in private families
Column 46. Number of other female servants in private families
Column 47. Number of persons engaged in trade or commerce
Column 48. Number of persons in each family subsisting on alms [paupers]
Column 49. Number of acres or arpents of land occupied by each family
Column 50. Number of acres or arpents of improved land occupied by each family
Column 51. Produce raised by each family during the last year, and estimated in Winchester bushels
- Indian Corn
Column 52. Number of hives of bees kept by each family last season
Column 53. Number of pounds of maple sugar made by each family last season
Column 54. Livestock owned by each family
- Neat Cattle
Column 55. Number of yards of fulled cloth manufactured in the domestic way in the same family
Column 56. Number of yards of linen, cotton, or other thin cloth, manufactured in the domestic way in the same family
Column 57. Number of yards of flannel or other woolen cloth, not fulled, manufactured in the domestic way in the same family
Column 58. Number of pounds of wool procured during the last year in each family
Column 59. Under what tenure such land is held by each family
Column 60. Rate of seigneurial rent paid for land held “à titre de cens”
Column 61. Average money rent of farm, farmed by each family
Column 62. Proportion of produce allowed to the proprietor for land held on lease or cultivated on shares by each family
Column 63. Number of colleges, academies and convents in each parish, township, extra-parochial place, ward or division of the town, etc.
Column 64. Number of elementary schools in every such place
Column 65. Number of scholars at each such college, academy, convent or elementary school
Column 66. Number of taverns or houses of public entertainment in every such place
Column 67. Number of stores where spirituous liquors are sold in every such place
Column 68. Number of grist mills in every such place
Column 69. Number of pairs of mill stones in each mill
Column 70. Number of oatmeal mills in every such place
Column 71. Number of barley mills in every such place
Column 72. Number of saw mills in every such place
Column 73. Number of oil mills in every such place
Column 74. Number of fulling mills in every such place
Column 75. Number of carding mills in every such place
Column 76. Number of thrashing mills in every such place
Column 77. Number of paper mills in every such place
Column 78. Number of iron works in every such place
Column 79. Number of trip hammers in every such place
Column 80. Number of nail factories in every such place
Column 81. The weight of nails so manufactured in such place
Column 82. Number of distilleries in every such place
Column 83. Number of breweries in every such place
Column 84. Number of tanneries in every such place
Column 85. Number of potash and pearl ash manufactories in every such place
Column 86. Number of manufactories of any sort in every such place, containing any machinery moved by wind, water, steam or animal power, specifying the purposes to which such machinery is applied, and by what power it is moved
Column 87. Average price of wheat in every such place since last harvest
Column 88. Average price of agricultural labour per day throughout the year
Column 89. Additional inquiry, with reference to the distribution of school money—number of children between five and sixteen in each family
The enumeration data were collected using one document, known as a schedule, which included a total of 89 questions, spread across two sheets. Questions were asked in English in Canada West and French in Canada East, this being reflected by the language used for headings on the schedules.
No agricultural or other type of schedules exist for this census.
Instructions to Enumerators
No document providing the instructions to enumerators on how to collect the names and other information in 1842 has been located.
Issues about this Census and this Database
The 1842 Census for Canada West consists of 2 pages:
- Columns 1 to 51 appear on the first page.
- Columns 51 to 89 appear on the second page.
The first page is on the digitized image link to an entry in the database for an individual. If you want to view the second page, increase by one the last digit of the url address of an image that appears in the navigation box of your browser.
Page 1: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/1842/uc/jpg/004569585_00091.jpg
Page 2: http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/1842/uc/jpg/004569585_00092.jpg
To view all columns associated to an individual, you will need to view two images.
- Pages for the sub-districts of North Dumfries and Galt, district of Gore, were incorrectly labelled as sub-district of St. David’s, city of Toronto, on the microfilm C-1344.
- On some pages on microfilm C-1345, the names of the sub-district and district are not indicated. They are labelled on the microfilm as “Census Returns, 1842, Canada West, Unidentified Sheets”. Search the 1851 census to see where the individuals appearing on those pages were living in 1851. Keep in mind, however, that many of the 1851 census records did not survive.
- This database only includes the census returns held by Library and Archives Canada. The Archives of Ontario holds the census returns that still exist for other places; however, they are not digitized, not available online and not included in this database. Library and Archives Canada does hold copies of those “M” microfilm reels and they can be viewed onsite at 395 Wellington. Consult the list of 1842 Census of Canada West districts and sub-districts to learn the extent of our collection.
A Map of Canada East and West (MIKAN 3694915) shows the limits of the districts in 1842.