1851 Canadian Census
The 1851 Canadian census was not, per se, a census of Canada, as Canada as a nation did not exist until 1867. Rather, it was a census of the 4 UK colonies which existed at that time: Lower Canada (Quebec), Upper Canada (Ontario), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
The 1851 Canadian census was scheduled to take place as of the night of January 12, 1851. However, much of the census taking did not occur until 1852. For this reason, you will often see references to the 1851/52 census, or the 1852 census.
The Upper and Lower Canada census contained different questions than those in Nova Scotia, which again had different questions from those in New Brunswick.
The Upper and Lower Canada Census
Upper and Lower Canada
Orange = Upper Canada (Ontario); Green = Lower Canada (Quebec)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
The questions asked on the Upper and Lower Canada census were as follows:
- Names of Inmates
- Profession, trade, or occupation
- Place of birth
- Residence if out of limits (that is, the address of people not enumerated where they usually lived.)
- Age next birthday
- Married persons
- Colored persons
- Residents Deaf & dumb – M F
- Members – M F
- Non-members – M F
- Members absent – M F
- Blind – M F
- Lunatic – M F
- Attending school – M F
- Births during the year 1851 – M F
- Deaths during 1851 – M F - Age and cause of death
The 1851 Census of New Brunswick
Location of New Brunswick within Canada
Source: Wikimedia Commons.
The 1851 census of New Brunswick, which was planned for 1851 but was postponed until January 12, 1852, contained the following questions:
- Dwelling No.
- Rank or Occupation
- Date of entering the colony
- Ill or infirm
Some schedules have been lost or destroyed, and therefore not all counties are searchable online.
The 1851 Census of Nova Scotia
Placement of Nova Scotia within Canada
The 1851 census of Nova Scotia listed the following questions:
- Heads of families
- Buildings – No of inhabited houses
- by how many families inhabited
- No. of houses now building
- No. of uninhabited houses
- No. of stores, barns, and outhouses
- Inhabitants of various ages
- no. under 10 years of age – M F
- no. between 10 and 20 years of age – M F
- no. between 20 and 30 years of age – M F
- no. between 30 and 40 years of age – M F
- no. between 40 and 50 years of age – M F
- no. over 50 years of age – M F
As can be seen from the above, the three censuses differed vastly in their content.
The Canada East and West census records listed the names of all inhabitants, and collected information about each one, including occupation, religion, country of origin (if not Canada), race, and physical infirmities. It appears to be following the US format to some extent.
The New Brunswick census also recorded all individuals living within its borders, although the information it collected was less than that in Canada East and West.
The Nova Scotia census records only collected the name of the head of household, and the number of people within age various categories in each household.
From a genealogy standpoint, then, the Canada East and West census records likely are the most useful of the data collected from the three Canadian colonies, as they are the most complete.
In summary, the 1851 Canadian census is not uniform in its questions, as each of the three colonies drafted its own forms. However, it does provide a great deal of information which previously was not available in one record.
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