Census of Canada, 1921

Table of contents

Background

The 1921 Census marked the sixth regularly scheduled collection of national statistics. It officially began on June 1, 1921.

A total of 241 commissioners were appointed to coordinate the census. Reporting to the commissioners, 11,425 enumerators were then assigned to a clearly defined area.

Enumerators visited 233 census districts, divided into multiple enumeration units. These units were made up of cities, towns, groups of townships, Indian reserves, and other less well-defined areas. In unorganized regions, First Nation reserves and the Northwest Territories, special agents (including missionaries, employees of fur trading companies and of the Department of Indian Affairs and members of the Royal North West Mounted Police) acted as enumerators.

Enumerators collected information for 8,788,483 individuals distributed as follows:

  • Alberta (588,454)
  • British Columbia (524,582)
  • Manitoba (610,118)
  • New Brunswick (387,876)
  • Northwest Territories (8,473)
  • Nova Scotia (523,837)
  • Ontario (2,933,662)
  • Prince Edward Island (88,615)
  • Quebec (2,361,199)
  • Saskatchewan (757,510)
  • Yukon (4,157)

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 1921 Census. As a result, only a microfilm copy of the 1921 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 1921 Census. As exact copies, a page that was unreadable on microfilm will also be unreadable on your computer screen. Title pages appear before each sub-district; they contain this information:

  • Census year (i.e. 1921)
  • 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).

Schedules

The enumeration data were collected using 5 documents, known as schedules, which included a total of 565 questions.

Only Schedule 1 has been preserved.

  • Schedule 1, Population
  • Schedule 2, Agriculture
  • Schedule 3, Animals, Animal Products, Fruits, etc., not on Farms
  • Schedule 4, Manufacturing, Trading and Business Establishments
  • Schedule 5, Blind and Deaf-Mutes

Street indexes

For large cities, a street index was created by Statistics Canada after the taking of the 1921 census. The index can be used to quickly find in which sub-district or division a specific street, avenue or institution has been enumerated. See Censuses – Street Indexes

Instructions to enumerators and statistics

Instructions to enumerators were given on how to collect the names and other information in 1921. You can read these instructions in the publication Instructions to Commissioners and Enumerators, Canada, Census and Statistics Office, 1921.

Statistical information can be found in the following volumes of the Report of the Sixth Census of Canada:

  • Population, number, sex and distribution, racial origins, religions. Ottawa, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1924
  • Population, age, conjugal condition, birthplace, immigration, citizenship, language, educational status, school attendance, blindness and deaf mutism. Ottawa, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1925
  • Population, dwellings, families, conjugal condition of family head, children, orphanhood, wage earners. Ottawa, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1925
  • Occupations. Ottawa, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1929
  • Agriculture. Ottawa, Dominion Bureau of Statistics, 1925

About the database

This research tool contains 8,800,617 records that are searchable by name. The database entries are in the original language used in the documents. This information was not translated.

How to refine your search in the result page

As a federated search engine, “Collection Search” allow users to search multiple collections available to the public at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) from one starting point. Besides the advanced search, you can refine your search results is by using the facets (also called filters) found in the left-hand menu of the results page.

Facets can be selected or deselected. The results list will adjust itself to your actions. If you select a specific facet, other options within the same tab will no longer be visible. You will see a red “X” next to the facet selected. To remove or deselect this facet, you just need to click on the “X”. You will then be able to see the other options for the tab again.

Basic facets let you define your search based on elements common to all records in “Collection Search”:

Found in

This facet lets you choose which subject to explore based on the datasets that contain results generated by the keywords you used. If you select the tab “Genealogy”, you will see the broader subjects of interest (e.g. “Military”, “Census”, etc.). In the case of the “Archives” tab, you will see the datasets containing your keywords (e.g. “Fonds and Collection”, “Orders-in-Council”, etc.).

Date

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Hierarchical level

This facet will indicate the number of results per level of archival classification (fonds, sous-fonds, series, sub-series, files, items, component, etc.).

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This facet lets you choose records available online.

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This facet can limit your results to records coming from a government archival fonds or a private source.

Specific facets

You will notice that some datasets have unique facets to provide a better search experience. For example, under census records you will find facets for province, district and sub-districts. These might be the key to your research, so it’s a very good idea to watch out for them!

Column headings and interpretation

Numeric codes: When employees at the Dominion Bureau of Statistics were compiling the statistical summaries, some of them wrote numbers on the census pages. The numbers relate to the information already recorded, not to additional details about the person enumerated.

For example, we have been able to determine that for column 15, Place of birth, the following codes were used on some pages:

  • Columns 1 to 35

    Number in the Order of Visitation

    Column 1. Dwelling house
    A count of the houses, numbered in the order visited by the enumerator.

    Column 2. Family, household or institution
    A count of the family or household. Two or more families that occupied the same house were to be numbered separately.

    Name and Residence

    Column 3. Name of each person in family, household or institution.
    Surname (last name) first.

    Column 4. Place of Abode (Section or Township)
    In rural localities, give parish, section, township, range and Meridian.

    Column 5. Place of Abode (Municipality)
    In cities, towns and villages, give street and number of dwelling.

    Tenure and Class of Home

    Column 6. Home owned or rented
    "O" if the home is owned; "R" if home is rented.

    Column 7. If rented, give rent paid per month

    Column 8. Class of Houses
    "A" for Apartment House; "T" for Row or Terrace; "S" for single house; "D" for semi-detached house.

    Column 9. Materials of Construction
    "S" for stone; "B" for brick; "W" for wood; "B.V." for brick veneered; "P.L." for plastered with lime mortar; "P.C." plastered with cement mortar; "Con." For houses constructed of cement blocks or of concrete.

    Column 10. Rooms occupied by this family
    The number of rooms occupied by this family for living purposes.

    Personal Description

    Column 11. Relationship to head of family or household

    • The head of the family (or household or institution) was entered as such (that is, head), with the remaining members and their relation to the head (for example, wife, son, daughter, servant, boarder, lodger, partner).
    • People in an institution were described as officer, inmate, patient, prisoner, pupil, and so on. The chief officer of the institution was designated through his/her proper title (for example, warden, superintendent or principal).

    Column 12. Sex
    Denoted by "m" for male and "f" for female.

    Column 13. Single, Married, Widowed, Divorced or Legally Separated
    Denoted by the letter "s" for single, "m" for married, "w" for widowed (man or woman), "d" for divorced or "l.s." for legally separated.

    Column 14. Age at last Birthday

    • For people one year of age and over, the number of years completed before June 1, 1921.
    • For children under one year of age, fractions were used (for example, for 2 months, "2/12" was indicated).

    Nativity

    • 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.
    • These instructions are valid for columns 15, 16 and 17.

    Column 15. Person

    Column 16. Father

    Column 17. Mother

    Citizenship

    Column 18. Year of immigration to Canada

    • The year in which the individual moved to Canada from another country. It should be the year of the first entry into Canada.
    • Also applies to Canadian-born persons who had lived in another country and have returned to Canada.

    Column 19. Year of Naturalization

    For persons who were born in a country outside the United Kingdom or any of its dependencies and who had become naturalized.

    Column 20. Nationality

    • "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.
    • A married woman is to be reported as of the same nationality as her husband.
    • A foreign-born child under 21 years of age is to be reported as of the same nationality as his parents.

    Race, language and religion

    Column 21. Racial or tribal origin

    Column 22. Can speak English
    Yes or no.

    Column 23. Can speak French
    Yes or no.

    Column 24. Language other than English or French spoken as Mother tongue
    The language spoken by every person other than English or French written in full.

    Column 25. Religious body, Denomination or Community to which this person adheres or belongs
    The religion to which an individual claimed to belong written in full.

    Education

    Column 26. Can read
    Yes or no.

    Column 27. Can write
    Yes or no.

    Column 28. Months at school since Sept. 1, 1920
    The number of months the child attended school between September 1st, 1920 and June 1st, 1921.

    Profession, Occupation and Employment

    Important notice

    For statistical analysis, a numerical code (for example 00-00, 05-57 or 09-80) was used for occupations and added in column 28 after the census was taken. It consists of two parts:

    • the first part from 00 to 99 indicates the industry
    • the second part from 00 to 119, represents the occupation

    Consult the 1921 Census Occupational Codes chart [PDF 1.8 MB] to obtain the meaning of the code. The information was taken from the publications Alphabetical Index to Occupations, Sixth Census, 1921, Ottawa, Census and Statistics Office, 1921.

    Column 29. Chief occupation or trade
    The more accurate description of the trade for every person of 10 years and over.

    Column 30. Employer "E", Employee or Worker "W", Working on own account "OA"

    Column 31. "a" if "Employer" state principal product, "b" if "Employee" state where employed as "Farm", "Cotton Mill", "Foundry", "Grocery", etc. "c" if on "Own account" state nature of work

    Column 32. Total earnings past 12 months since June 1st, 1920
    Total amount earned between June 1st, 1920 and May 31st, 1921.

    Column 33. If an employee, where you out of work June 1st, 1921
    Yes or no.

    Column 34. Number of weeks unemployed in the past 12 months since June 1st, 1920

    Column 35. Number of weeks unemployed since June 1st, 1920 due to sickness

Common abbreviations

A complete list of abbreviations for places of birth in Canada is on our main census page.

  • Other abbreviations

    Gender

    • M (Male)
    • F (Female)

    Marital status

    • S (Single)
    • M (Married)
    • W (Widow / Widower)
    • V: Veuf / Veuve (Widow / Widower)
    • D (Divorced)
    • L.S. (Legally separated)

    Months

    • Jan. (January)
    • Feb. (February)
    • Mar. (March)
    • Apr. (April)
    • Aug. (August)
    • Sept. (September)
    • Oct. (October)
    • Nov. (November)
    • Dec. (December)

    Religion

    • 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.C. (Roman Catholic)
    • R.P. (Reformed Presbyterian)
    • U.P. (United Presbyterian)
    • W.M. (Wesleyan Methodist)

    Other

    • Items to be counted as one were to be indicated by either a downward stroke (|) or the figure "1."
    • Items to be counted as zero were to be indicated by a dash (-) or the space was left blank.
    • Ditto marks (") were not to be used, except where specifically called for under the instructions.

City directories

Maps

After the 1911 census, the government used those population statistics to redraw the federal electoral district boundaries. The maps of the new electoral districts were published in an electoral atlas in 1915.

Those electoral districts were used to determine the census districts for the 1921 census. Keep in mind, however, that between 1915 and 1921 there may have been minor changes to some boundaries.

Electoral atlas of the Dominion of Canada: according to the Redistribution Act of 1914 and the Amending Act of 1915 (Mikan 204296)

On that page, click on "Digital Objects" to see the thumbnail images. Images 2 and 3 are the table of contents.

When you open a map, you can use the "Download a Copy" button to access the zoom function.

Indexes

The 1921 census has also been indexed on the following websites:

Credit

Library and Archives Canada gratefully acknowledges the contribution of Ancestry.ca, without which this project would not have been possible.

How to obtain copies

You can print the JPG or PDF images or save the images onto your computer. Please do not submit copy requests because we do not provide copies of census records that are already digitized online.

The 1921 census is only available in digitized format. Microfilm reels are not available for consultation or for purchase.

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