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Government Publications - Census of Canada

Brief History

The first census was conducted in the colony of New France in 1666 and regular census surveys were conducted by the French and then the British authorities right up to Confederation. The first national census after Confederation was conducted in 1871. From this date forward until 1951 the Census of Canada was conducted every 10 years. Starting in 1956 the Census was amended to a five year cycle. Some of these historical censuses are available from UBC Library in print, and others have been digitized and are available from Library and Archives Canada.

UBC Library has:

In Print

  • Volumes for the Censuses of 1871 - 2006 in the Census section of the Government Publications collection, floor 2, Koerner Library
  • Volumes for various Census years at various branches, generally in the HA741 call number range. You can find more details about these copies by doing a keyword search in the Library catalogue for "Census Canada" and the Census year that you are interested in.

In Microform

  • All volumes published for the Census of Canada from 1851/52 - 1971 were filmed to form a microform collection at AW5.C3528.C36, Koerner Library Microforms.

From the U of Toronto iSchool:  a report locator for the Census of Canada, 1851-1951 containing bibliographical information for all Census publications for this period (drawn from the Historical Catalogue and other sources) along with links to open access digital copies where found (i.e. Internet Archive). The Report Locator is in .xls format. This spreadsheet contains a checklist of Census publications from 1851 to 1951 and provides link

Access to Historical Census Data

Sources arranged in chronological order, from oldest to most recent:

  • Censuses of Canada, 1665 - 1871(Via Queen's University)
    Electronic reproduction of an 1876 publication which includes 343 tables from 98 Censuses taken between 1665 and 1871. - StatsCan has loaded the files on the DLI EFT site but no longer provides direct web access - when ESTAT was decommissioned access to these tables were lost. Queen'S university has posted these tables on the web (link above). 
  • Library & Archives Canada: Discover the Collection: Censuses
    Searchable records from the 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, and 1911 Census returns. Includes other helpful search tools as well.
  • Canadian Families Project
    National microdata sample from 1901 Census. UVIC researchers also created a 5% microdata sample for BC which can be searched at
  • Canadian Century Research Infrastructure (CCRI)
    A massive project coordinated by several Canadian universities to create microdata files of samples from the 1911, 1921, 1931, 1941, and 1951 Censuses. Due to confidentiality restrictions, only the 1911 microdata is publicly available at this time. Microdata from the other Censuses is available to qualified researchers at Statistics Canada Research Data Centres. [The microdata cannot be publicly released until 92 years after each Census.]
  • Toronto Census Tracts, 1951
    CSV files specially-prepared by the University of Toronto's Data Library. Includes 3 profile-type tables: Population Characteristics; Dwelling, Household and Family Characteristics; Characteristics of the Labour Force Population. Documentation includes scanned PDF of original tables as well.
  • Canadian Census Analyser
    Microdata samples from the 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, and 2006 Censuses.
    Profile tables from all of the same Census years, plus the 1961 Census.
  • Statistics Canada's Census website
    Searchable tables from the 1996, 2001, and 2006 Censuses.

Nominal Censuses/Census Returns

Nominal or manuscript census returns consist of the original census forms, giving the occupation, place of birth, religion and other information about every resident of Canada. These documents are housed with the Library and Archives Canada. They can be released 92 years after the census.

Catalogues and Collections

Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1666-1891. HA 741 A42 1981. Koerner Quick Ref. The Library owns selective microfilm at AW1 R-6453.

Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1901. HA 741 A42 1992. Koerner Quick Ref. The Library owns selective microfilm at AW1 R-6453.

Censuses - Historical The Library and Archives Canada website has searchable databases for the Census of 1851; the Census of Ontario 1871; the Census of Canada 1881; the Census of the Northwest Provinces 1906, and the Census of Canada for 1901 and 1911.

NOTE: in all cases, searching is only available by geography, not by individual family name.