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Census of the Prairies Provinces, 1916

About the Records

The British North America Act (also known as the Constitution Act of 1867) called for the taking of a census every ten years, to determine parliamentary representation based on population. Under the provisions of the Census and Statistics Act (which received Royal Assent 16 May 1905) a general census of Canada was to occur in 1911, and every ten years thereafter, and a census of population and agriculture was to be taken in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1906, and every ten years thereafter. The 1916 census was the ninth census for Manitoba and the third census for Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Thirteen commissioners were appointed to co-ordinate the census effort. Reporting to the commissioners, enumerators were then assigned to a clearly defined area.

In all, 1,365 enumerators visited forty three districts, divided into 1,327 enumeration area units. In addition to the regular enumerators, 45 Indian agents were employed. In the northern parts of the districts of Nelson in Manitoba, of Prince Albert and North Battleford in Saskatchewan, and of East and West Edmonton in Alberta, members of the Northwest Mounted Police acted as enumerators.

Three schedules were used to collect the data regarding the population and the agriculture. Schedule no. 1 was similar to the ones used in previous censuses and was designed to record information of the population such as name, age, sex, origin, religion etc. It included a special column to procure the enumeration of all persons domiciled in the Prairie Provinces who had enlisted for military service and were either in training camps in Canada or had gone overseas.

Schedule no. 2 was designed to obtain the information concerning farm property, field crops, animals and animal products. Schedule no. 3 provided for a record of domestic animals, dairy products and eggs "not on farms". Those two schedules have not survived.

Regardless of the date when a particular family was actually enumerated, the population was to be counted as it existed on June 1, 1916.

A census family was defined as a group of people legally domiciled under the same roof or who shared the same food. The following were all examples of a single census family: the occupants and employees of a boarding house (if that was their regular place of residence); a single person living alone; the family and domestic servants living in a house.

On an enumerator's folio (a sheet in the enumerator's book), the head of the household was listed first, followed by the other members; therefore, each household took up as many lines as there were people living in the household. Like other censuses, the 1916 Census aimed to highlight generalities rather than specific occurrences; consequently, enumeration was expected to be systematic and fit individuals' information into categories that could be easily compiled and interpreted.

The enumerators were instructed to provide the name of the province, the district, and the sub-district at the top of each census page; the enumerator's name was also provided at the beginning of each schedule.

Overall, the enumerators collected information for 1,698,220 individuals distributed as follows in the Prairies provinces:


In 1955, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics sought authority from the Public Records Committee (PRC) to destroy the paper census schedules for the 1916 Census. After consultation, the PRC agreed to the destruction, on the condition that the population schedules be microfilmed. As a result, a microfilm copy is the only remaining archival holding of the population schedules from the 1916 Census. The microfilming of these records was not of consistent quality and not all images can be deciphered. Unfortunately, the destruction of the paper records means that there is no recourse when a record is unreadable.

The reels include all completed Schedule no. 1 forms. On each microfilm reel, researchers will find a title page listing the year of the census (1916), the name of the province, the name and number of the district and sub-district, and the number of pages in the grouping.

The digitized copies of the census schedules found on the Library and Archives Canada website were made by scanning the microfilms of the 1916 Census. Because the digitized versions are exact copies, a page that was illegible on microfilm is still illegible on a computer screen. The introductory pages from the microfilm that identify the year of the census, the name of the province, the name and number of the district and sub-district, and the number of pages are not accessible online since this information is included in the database.

These records and those of previous censuses are described in the Statistics Canada fonds (R92), formerly Record Group (RG) 31.

The names of individuals were recorded on a standard form with the following column headings:

Column 1
Dwelling House: The number indicates the consecutive habitations that the enumerator has encountered in which there is a household.
Column 2
Family, Household or Institution: The families or households should be numbered in the order in which they are enumerated entering the number opposite the head of the family.
Column 2
Name of each person in family, household, or institution: Surname and given name(s) of members of the family or household to be entered in the following order: head first, wife second, then sons and daughters in the order of their ages and lastly relatives, servants, boarders, lodgers or other persons.
Column 4
Military Service If Overseas write "O"; if in Canada write "C" and give name of Camp in Col. 8: special column provided to procure the enumeration of all persons domiciled in the Prairie Provinces who had enlisted for military service and were either in training camps in Canada or had gone overseas.
Column 5, 6 7 and 8
Place of Habitation: In the case of a city, town or incorporated village, the number of the house and the name of the street were entered. In the case of rural districts, the township, range and meridian and the name of the municipality where municipal organizations exist were entered.
Column 9
Relationship to head of family or household: The head of the family or household was to be designated by the word "head" and the other members by their relationship to the head.
Column 10
Sex: M (male) or F (female)
Column 11
Single, married, widowed, divorced or legally separated: Abbreviations were used such as S (single person), M (Married), W (Widowed), D (Divorced), L.S. (Legally separated).
Column 12
Age at last birthday: the number indicates age at last birthday prior to June 1, 1916. In the case of a child not one year old on June 1, 1916, the age should be given in completed months expressed as twelfths of a year such as 2 months, 2/12.
Column 13
Country or place of birth. If in Canada, specify province or territory: In this column abbreviations were used for provinces. Otherwise, the name of country was written in full.
Column 14
Religion: The religion of each person was entered according to what he or she professes, specifying the denomination, sect or community to which that person belongs or adheres. Abbreviations were not used.
Column 15
Year of immigration to Canada: All persons born outside of Canada and also Canadian-born persons who had formerly become domiciled in a foreign country but have returned to their native soil.
Column 16
Year of naturalization: Applies to persons 21 years old and over who were born in a country other than the United Kingdom or any of its dependencies. If a person has applied for papers but has not yet reached the full status of citizenship, the fact should be indicated by writing the letters "pa." for papers.
Column 17
Nationality: An alien person will be classed by nationality according to the country of birth, or the country to which he or she professes to owe allegiance. People born in Canada or naturalized citizens are considered "Canadians".
Column 18
Racial or tribal origin: usually traced through the Father, except for aboriginals for whom the origin is traced through the mother and names of their tribes should be given. Children from interracial unions will be classed as "Negro" (black and white races) or "Mongolian (Chinese or Japanese)" (white and yellow races).
Column 19
Can speak English: to be answered by yes or no.
Column 20
Can speak French: to be answered by yes or no.
Column 21
Other language spoken as mother tongue: A list of choices was provided to enumerators. If possible, they had to select one of the following: Armenian, Bohemian, Bulgarian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Greek, Gaelic, Japanese, Lithuanian, Magyar, Norwegian, Polish, Rumanian, Russian, Ruthenian, Slovak, Slovenian or Wendish, Spanish, Swedish, Syrian, Turkish, Welsh, Yiddish or Jewish.
Column 22
Can read: to be answered by yes or no.
Column 23
Can write: to be answered by yes or no.
Column 24
Chief Occupation or Trade: the principal occupation or means of living for every person of ten years and over. It should indicate the particular kind of work done by which the individual earns money or the word "income" or "none".
Column 25
Employer "E", Employee or worker "W", Working on own account "O.A.": distinction being made about how the individual earns his income.
Column 26
State where person is employed as "on farm", "in cotton mill", "in foundry", "in dry goods store", "in saw-mill", etc.: indicates where the person whose occupation or trade is indicated in column 24 is employed.

Abbreviations were used in some columns such as:

Column 4

Training camps in Canada

Column 10


Column 11

Single person
Legally separated

Column 13

British Columbia
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Northwest Territories
Prince Edward Island
Turkey (E.)
European Turkey
Turkey (A.)
Asiatic Turkey

For more detailed information regarding the collection of the 1916 Census and how responses to each question were to be entered, please consult the Instructions to Enumerators published in the Canada Gazette, volume 50, 31 May 1916 and Population and agriculture: Manitoba, Saskatchewan. Census and Statistics Office, Dept. of Trade and Commerce, 1918. (AMICUS 5004976).

How the Records are Arranged on the Microfilm Reels

The microfilm reels have been digitized and the images appear in the same order as on the microfilm reels. The names of individuals are enumerated by province, districts and sub-districts. You can browse through the images as you would through a microfilm reel. You can move through the images one by one, or skip ahead by entering a new page (image) number in the page navigation box. The records are not searchable by name.

Consult also the Census of the Prairie Provinces, 1916 Database

List of Content of Microfilms

Downloadable Formats

The Census of the Prairie Provinces (1916) is available on 32 microfilm reels overall. In order to find out the content of each reel, please consult the Finding Aid [XLS 353 KB]. Please note that this findind aid was originally created only in English.

How to Obtain Copies

You can print the images or save them on your computer. Use the following access link for other options, such as borrowing microfilm.

How to Access Library and Archives Canada Records

Other Resources

Other archival census records exist. Consult Census and Enumerations to obtain more information about these records.