Canada Census, 1881 (FamilySearch Historical Records)

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FamilySearch Record Search This article describes a collection of historical records available at
Access the records: Canadian Census 1881 Index .

Collection Time Period

The first national Canadian census was conducted in 1881.

Record Description

Census schedules were taken on large sheets of paper with preprinted rows and columns. The schedules were organized by province and then by census districts and subdistricts.

The census contains the following nine schedules arranged within subdistricts:

  1. Nominal return of the living
  2. Nominal return of the deaths within last twelve months
  3. Return of public institutions, real estate, vehicles, and implements
  4. Return of cultivated land, field products, and plants and fruits
  5. Livestock, animal products, home-made fabrics, and furs
  6. Return of industrial establishments
  7. Return of products of the forest
  8. Return of shipping and fisheries
  9. Return of mineral products

Record Content

Important genealogical information in the census includes:

Canada 1881 Census DGS 4462124 39.jpg
  • Full name
  • Age (can be used to calculate an approximate birth year)
  • Sex
  • Born within the last 12 months
  • Birthplace
  • Religion
  • Ethnic origin
  • Occupation
  • Married or widowed
  • Town, village, township, or subdistrict of residence

How to Use the Records

Canadian census records are the best source for quickly identifying a family group and their residence. Use the residence, birthplace, and age given in the census for each person to search other record types. Since the census attempted to record all the people living in a household, it may identify individuals for whom other records do not exist.

Record History

Following the Constitution Act in 1867, census taking became a federal mandate. The first census was set for 1871 and every ten years thereafter. Therefore, the second national Canadian census was conducted in 1881. Enumeration was by census district, except for Prince Edward Island, which was enumerated by lot number. Census districts were voting districts, not counties, although most have the same names as counties. For the most part, census districts were synonymous with cities and counties, while subdistricts were synonymous with towns, townships, and city wards. Villages, small towns, and parishes were generally enumerated as part of the township in which they were located. Census district and county boundaries were not always the same.

Why the Record Was Created

Canadian census records were taken to enumerate the population for representation, taxation, and other purposes.

Record Reliability

The accuracy of the census depended on the knowledge of the informant as anyone in the household, or even neighbors, could give information to the census taker. Some information may have been incorrect or falsified.

Related Websites

Library and Archives Canada

Free online images are available at this site. Use the information found in this FamilySearch index collection to search for the image online.

Related Wiki Articles

Contributions to This Article

We welcome user additions to FamilySearch Historical Records wiki articles. We are looking for additional information that will help readers understand the topic and better use the available records. We also need translations for collection titles and images in articles about records written in languages other than English. For specific needs, please visit WikiProject FamilySearch Records.

Please follow these guidelines as you make changes. Thank you for any contributions you may provide.

Citation for This Collection

The following citation refers to the original source of the data and images published on Historical Records. It may include the author, custodian, publisher and archive for the original records.

"Census schedules, 1881," index, FamilySearch Record Search; from Canada. Department of Agriculture. "Census schedules, 1881," Public Archives Of Canada, Ottowa, Ontario. FHL microfilm, 125 reels. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Information about creating source citations for FamilySearch Historical Collections is listed in the wiki article Help:How to Create Source Citations For FamilySearch Historical Records Collections.

Citing FamilySearch Historical Collections

When you copy information from a record, you should list where you found the information. This will help you or others to find the record again. It is also good to keep track of records where you did not find information, including the names of the people you looked for in the records.

A suggested format for keeping track of records that you have searched is found in the wiki article Help:How to Cite FamilySearch Collections.

Citation Example for Records Found in This Collection

"Canada Census, 1881."   database, FamilySearch (;: accessed March 4, 2011), r Janet Clark, age 38; citing Census Records, FHL microfilm 1,375,799; Public Archives of Canada, Ottowa, Ontario.