10th June 2009

Ancestry.ca Digitizes 32 Million Census Listings

Ancestry.caTorontoAncestry.ca, in partnership with Library and Archives Canada (LAC), today completed the world-first online launch of the Historical Canadian Censuses, 1851-1916. Never before have all of the nine available national censuses(1) been published online, fully indexed and including original document images.

Together, these censuses contain more than 32 million names – all searchable for the first time – of those living in Canada from the mid 19th century through to the early 20th century – a period of nationhood, new arrivals, great change and significant growth.

It is estimated that half of all living Canadians (16 million people)(2) will be able to trace their ancestors in the censuses – Ancestry.ca has found those of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Opposition Leader Michael Ignatieff, jailed businessman Conrad Black, singer Alanis Morissette and actress Pamela Anderson (original images available).

So what is a Canadian? Canadians have been asking themselves this very question for as long as we have existed as a country.

A recent national online survey(3) showed that 74 per cent of Canadians consider themselves ‘Canadian’ first and foremost yet more than half of all Canadians still identify with a nationality other than Canadian. Furthermore, a quarter cannot trace their ancestors back more than 50 years (beyond their grandparents), and just 16 per cent can trace their ancestors back more than 150 years (five generations).

The good news is that despite this lack of general knowledge, 85 per cent indicated that they were keen to learn more about their family history. With a one in two chance of finding ancestors in the Historical Canadian Censuses, 1851-1916, the originals of which are held by LAC, Ancestry.ca expects the collection to explode interest for family history in Canada.

Digitizing and indexing the nine censuses, which contain a range of information about individuals, families and residents living at a particular address, took an estimated 600,000 man hours to complete (the equivalent of a person working 24 hours a day, seven days a week for approximately 70 years). Making all the historical censuses available and fully searchable online will enable both new and advanced family history researchers to learn more about all members of a given household including family, lodgers and ‘the help’, on the day that census was taken.

For many, this will mean having first-time access to vital information to help them search and map their personal history: of family members, their ages, occupations, religions, native tongue and ethnicity, addresses and house type, parents’ birth place where applicable, and immigration year and military service (in selected censuses) at both given and multiple points in time. Given the richness of the information they contain, censuses are considered the ‘backbone’ of family history research, representing both a comprehensive starting point and a vital guide for researchers by providing further clues on other record sets such as birth, marriage, death, military and immigrations records, which may also contain information about their family members.

In making this collection available online, many Canadians who are interested in knowing more about their family history but who simply don’t know where or how to get started may now be inspired to do so. The Historical Canadian Censuses, 1851-1916 contain records from the ancestors of present day politicians, business moguls, actors, movie directors and athletes. These prominent names have roots firmly planted in Canadian history.

– Prime Minister Stephen Harper – Harper’s grandfather Harris Harper is found in the 1911 Census as an 8-year-old boy living in Westmoreland, Ontario with his parents Joseph and Agatha. His father is listed as a salesman.

– Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff – The Liberal Leader spent many years working in the United States and UK, but his roots are firmly Canadian. The 1881 Census lists his maternal grandfather William L. Grant as an 8-year-old boy living in Kingston, Ontario with his parents George and Jessie. Michael’s great-grandfather George is listed as the Principal of Queen’s University.

– Conrad Black – Quite fittingly, Black comes from a family of businessmen. His grandfather George Black is listed in the 1916 Census as a 5-year-old living with his parents, George Senior, who is listed as a financial agent, and mother Margaret. The family lived in some comfort with three servants listed as members of their household.

– Alanis Morissette – The Canadian songstress’ great-grandmother Noellah McConnell can be found in the 1901 Census living in Nipissing, Ontario. She is enumerated as Luella, aged 10, with her date of birth listed as December 25, 1890. Noellah’s father Erie is listed as a foreman.

– Pamela Anderson – Anderson, arguably Canada’s most famous blond, has Finnish origins – her great-grandfather Juho Hyytiainen arrived from Finland in 1908. Having anglicised his name, Juho appears in the 1911 Census as Herman Anderson. He is listed as a miner living in New Westminster, BC.

Josh Hanna, Senior VP, Ancestry.ca, comments: “Canada’s early censuses are among its most valuable historical documents, providing a broad snapshot of life in a particular place and time as well as detailed accounts of the lives of millions of individual Canadians during a period of change, growth and prosperity.

“Ancestry.ca’s partnership with LAC has ensured the digitization of these vital records and will enable millions of Canadians, not to mention countless others around the world in countries such as the UK, France and the US, to access the records online for the first time and search for their family.”

Familysearch International also worked on this ambitious project to deliver the images and indexes for the 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1916 Censuses. The Historical Canadian Censuses, 1851-1916 are now available to Canada and World Deluxe members and through a 14-day free trial and can be viewed at Ancestry.ca

(1) Due to Canadian privacy laws, no Canadian census may be made public until 92 years after it has been commissioned therefore the 1916 Census of Canada is the latest to be made publicly available. 1851 marks the first time a comprehensive census of the Canadian population was taken.

(2) Using Statistics Canada data, the cumulative immigrant population post 1916 was mapped, including births within this population. This was then subtracted from the current population to give the number of Canadians who descend from the eight million people living in Canada in 1916 (approximately 16 million).

(3) MarketTools online survey of 1,000+ Canadians, commissioned April, 2009

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 10th, 2009 at 8:12 am and is filed under Digital Products, National News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  • Archives

  • Subscribe to our Newsletter


  • Select a list:

    Annex|Pro
  • GWEN Radio
  • Gamers Giving Back

Optimization WordPress Plugins & Solutions by W3 EDGE