From Library and Archives Canada

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.

The 1851 Census marked the second collection of statistics for the Province of Canada. In 1841, the Act of Union created the Province of Canada, consisting of Canada West (present-day Ontario) and Canada East (present-day Quebec). Information on population was also collected for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

While the census for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia was completed in 1851, Canada West and Canada East did not start their collection of data until the following year. Therefore, for Canada West and Canada East, what is known as the Census of 1851 officially began on January 12, 1852.

The enumerators collected information for 2,312,919 individuals distributed as follows:

  • Canada West (952,004)
  • Canada East (890,261)
  • New Brunswick (193,800)
  • Nova Scotia (276,854)

Agricultural returns provide information such as lot and concession number, acreage, livestock and agricultural products. The agricultural returns are listed by the name of the head-of-household. For each sub-district (e.g. township), the agricultural returns are listed immediately after the personal returns.

The enumeration data were collected using documents known as schedules. Each province submitted unique schedules.

The 1861 Census marked the third collection of statistics for the Province of Canada. In 1841, the Act of Union created the Province of Canada, consisting of Canada West (present-day Ontario) and Canada East (present-day Quebec). Information on population was also collected for New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

The census officially began on:

  • January 14, 1861 for Canada East and for Canada West;
  • March 30, 1861 for Nova Scotia;
  • August 15, 1861 for New Brunswick.

The precise date of collection of data is unknown for Prince Edward Island.

The enumerators collected information for 3,112,269 individuals distributed as follows:

  • Canada East (1,110,664)
  • Canada West (1,396,091)
  • New Brunswick (193,800)
  • Nova Scotia (330,857)
  • Prince Edward Island (80,857)

Agricultural returns provide information such as lot and concession number, acreage, livestock and agricultural products. The agricultural returns are listed by the name of the head-of-household and can be found after the personal returns for the entire county.

In some cases, the name of the head of household was indexed both from the personal census and from the agricultural census returns. This has resulted in more than one entry for one individual and is particularly noted in the returns for Canada West.

The enumeration data were collected using documents known as schedules. Each province submitted a unique schedule.

The 1871 Census marked the first regularly scheduled collection of national statistics. It officially began April 2, 1871.

A total of 206 commissioners were appointed to coordinate the census. Reporting to the commissioners, 2,789 enumerators were then assigned to a clearly defined area.

Enumerators visited 206 census districts, divided into 1,701 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 3,485,761 individuals distributed as follows:

  • New Brunswick (285,594)
  • Nova Scotia (387,800)
  • Ontario (1,620,851)
  • Quebec (1,191,516)

The 1881 Census marked the second regularly scheduled collection of national statistics. It officially began April 4, 1881.
 
A total of 205 commissioners were appointed to coordinate the census. Reporting to the commissioners, 3,183 enumerators were then assigned to a clearly defined area.


Enumerators visited 192 census districts, divided into 2,139 sub-districts. These units were made up of cities, towns, groups of townships, Indian reserves, and other less well-defined areas. In 1881, it would have been almost impossible to conduct an enumeration of Aboriginal people over a great extent of the unorganized territory of Canada. For this reason, names of Aboriginals may not have been recorded for districts 187 (New Westminster, BC) and 192 (Northwest Territories).
 
Enumerators collected information for 4,278,327 individuals distributed as follows:
  • British Columbia (48,886)
  • Manitoba (64,824)
  • New Brunswick (321,251)
  • Northwest Territories (10,973)
  • Nova Scotia (440,558)
  • Ontario (1,924,271)
  • Prince Edward Island (108,911)
  • Quebec (1,358,653)

Source: http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/Pages/home.aspx

 
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