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Census and Enumerations

Census of Canada, 1871, Montreal, St-Louis Ward. Library and Archives Canada, RG 31, District 105, Sub-district a-1, p. 1, reel C-10040


Census of Canada, 1871, Montreal,
St-Louis Ward,
Library and Archives Canada,
RG 31, District 105, Sub-district a-1, p. 1,
reel C-10040.

Census returns contain the official enumeration of the Canadian population. They are one of the most useful sources for genealogical research. They can help you discover when and where your ancestor was born, the names of parents and siblings, what year an immigrant arrived in Canada and manyother details.

Research at Library and Archives Canada

About the Records

Census returns are federal government records in our Statistics Canada fonds (RG 31). For each census, the records are arranged by province or territory, then divided into districts. Those districts were based on the federal electoral districts, which usually corresponded with counties and cities. Districts were usually divided into sub-districts, corresponding with townships, parishes and larger towns.

Census of Canada, 1871.  Ottawa, St-George’s Ward, Library and Archives Canada, RG 31, District 77, Sub-district c-2, p. 9, reel C-10014


Census of Canada, 1871. Ottawa,
St-George's Ward,
Library and Archives Canada,
RG 31, District 77, Sub-district c-2, p. 9,
reel C-10014.

For most provinces, the returns of 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1906, 1911 and 1916 list each person by name, with the following details:

  • age;
  • sex;
  • country or province of birth;
  • religion;
  • racial or ethnic origin;
  • occupation; and
  • marital status.

The 1901 and 1911 returns also include date of birth, year of immigration and addressor location of land.

Census returns before 1851 are rarely complete for any geographical area and most list only the head of each household. Note that some portions ofthe 1851 Census have not survived.

More detailed information about census records can be found in the online help pages of our Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm, 1666-1901, and our census databases of 1851, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1906, 1911 and 1916.

Column Headings

The column headings are different in each census year. The Global Gazette [] provides links to various Web sites with blank forms showing the column headings.

Agricultural Returns

Agricultural returns provide information such as lot and concession number, acreage, livestock and agricultural products. For the 1851 and 1861 Census, the agricultural returns are listed by the name of the head-of-household.The agricultural returns for 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 were not retained.

1851: For each sub-district (e.g., township), the agricultural returns follow immediately after the personal returns.

1861: For each county, the agricultural returns follow immediately after the personal returns for the whole county.

1871: The personal returns for each enumeration sub-district appear in schedule one. The agricultural returns are schedules three to five and are keyed to schedule one by page and line number rather than by name.

Research Tips

  • In order to undertake a search in census, you must know the approximate locality, as the arrangement of these returns is by township or parish within each county.
  • Small towns and villages are enumerated within their respective townships; larger towns and cities are listed separately.
  • In the case of cities, particularly the larger centres, it is very helpful to know the ward in which the person lived. The ward can often be determined by consulting the street index at the front of published City Directories.
  • To determine the province and county for a particular place, you can search the Post Offices and Postmasters database. Enter the place name in the Office Name field and if there was a post office there, it will indicate the federal electoral district, which usually corresponded to the county and census districts.
  • Information about earlier census returns can be found in the Census Records: Finding Aid 300 [PDF 1,670 KB].
  • If you do not know the name of the township or parish within which a village is situated, we suggest that you consult a provincial gazetteer. You can also find maps and other geographical information on the various Web sites linked to the Canada GenWeb Project [].
  • Maps may be of assistance such as Electoral Maps of Canada.
  • You can transcribe information from census returns onto pre-printed blank forms that can be purchased from some genealogy organizations such as the Ontario Genealogical Society [].