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1881 Canadian Census Records

Canadian Parliament Peace Tower

The 1881 Canadian Census Records are unique because they were the first of the regularly scheduled collection of national statistics based upon laws put out by the government. Previous censuses in Canada were deemed inconsistent and unreliable. Genealogists and historians can gain valuable information through researching the Canadian Census.

Goal of the 1881 Census

The goal of the 1881 census, as outlined by Deputy Minister Charles Tache, was to make the collection process accurate and as clear as possible. The census was intended to become a tool to collect information about the citizens so the Canadian government could make decisions and plan for Canada's future.

Questions Asked on the Census

Census enumerators went to each dwelling and asked the following questions pertaining to the household on April 4th, 1881:

  • Names of people living in the household
  • Ages of individuals
  • Country/province of birth
  • Religion
  • Nationality
  • Occupations
  • Whether or not attending school
  • Marital status
  • Infirmities such as unsound mind, deaf, dumb or blind

Regions Covered

  • Quebec
  • Ontario
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick
  • Manitoba
  • Prince Edward Island
  • British Columbia
  • Northwest Territories

Statistics From the Census

Enumerators were not able to count all of the aborigines due to the vastness of the unorganized territory of Canada at the time. Otherwise the Canadian census found out the following statistics about the country:

  • Houses: 738,209
  • Shanties: 14,592
  • Houseboats: 116
  • Males: 2,188,854
  • Females: 2,135,956
  • Population: 4,324,810
  • Farming was the largest occupation at 498,715 farmers, with 6796 of them being female.
  • Ontario was the most populated area
  • 100 females were of the age of 100
  • 99 males were of the age of 100

Where to Obtain 1881 Canadian Census Records

The original written census records were copied onto microfilm in 1955. They were later digitized and made available on the computer. The census of 1881 is now accessible on the Internet. The Library and Archives of Canada has a free online search engine to locate persons in the census. Some of the records are not legible, as they are exact copies of the original paper records.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has a free family search engine with the 1881 Canadian Census Records. The search is more effective if you have the proper spelling of the last name, first name, birthplace, and approximate birth year. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has inexpensive CD-ROMs of the 1881 Canadian census records available for sale to search without needing to use the Internet.

Other Sources

  • Cyndi's List is an extremely useful website that links to the 1881 census records, as well as many other research sites to help locate information about your ancestors.
  • CensusFinder is another useful Canadian website with loads of information about the 1881 census.
  • offers a free 14-day trial to search through Canadian census records.
  • Olive Tree Genealogy has a search engine for Canadian census records, as well as ship passenger lists.
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1881 Canadian Census Records