Analyzing Canadian Census Records (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian Census Part 1 and Part 2  by Doris Bourrie, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Analyzing The Records

By collecting all census entries for your family you will have compiled a picture of the family group over a period of years, depending on the number of census records located. It is now necessary to analyze these records and compare findings from one census to another in order to obtain as much information as possible regarding your family. Keep in mind the previous comments on the probable accuracy of the information given.

What to Look for When Comparing Records

Age: As outlined previously, you may need to make an educated guess regarding the probable years of birth for some family members, if their ages vary from census to census.

Members of Family: You will no doubt notice new members added to the family group as new children were born. There may be some members listed in one census, but not listed in the next census.

If these were young adults, it is possible that they married or moved from the family home and established a household of their own. You may wish to search for a marriage record for the missing young adult during the ten year period between the census records.

Sons, because they would still have the same surname, may be located in the same census living near the parent family if they remained in the same area, thus providing you with information about their family, the name of the wife, children, etc.

If the missing person was an elderly adult, it is quite possible that their death occurred during the time between the census records, and you would then look for a death record during that time period.

If you find one census record indicating a son named John, aged 5, you would expect him to be about 15 years of age in the next census. If there is a John, but he is listed as 1 year or 2 years old, and his name is recorded after the older children, then you should suspect that the first John is deceased, and the next male child was named after him.

If an elderly person has been added to the family, there is the possibility that the person may be a parent of the head of the family or his wife. Check the age to see if it is possible that this person might be a parent, or perhaps a sibling to the head of the household, or his wife.

If the surname is different you may have found a clue to the wife’s family name. Make a note of this person’s name, and possible relationship for further research.

If young children appear in the family group with a different surname, consider the possibility that they may be related to the head of the house in some manner. They may be visiting the family at the time of the census, or if they are orphans, may be living with aunts/uncles or grandparents.

Consider all possibilities, and search for further information to solve the mystery. Genealogical research is a progressive journey from the known to the unknown. By speculating on possible reasons for unexplained information, and searching for confirmation of your theories, you may learn more about your family.

Additional Information

For additional information see: Where to find Census Records

See: Census Accuracy

See: Canadian Census Substitute Records


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course Canadian Census Part 1 and Part 2 offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.