Library and Archives Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Institutional links

Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1666-1901

Search Help

The Genealogy: Census section of our web site includes the following information:

About the Records

Census records, which contain the official enumeration of our population, are one of the most valuable sources of genealogical information. Returns prior to 1851 usually are either aggregate (containing no names, just statistics) or list only the heads of households and the total number of individuals in each household.

For most provinces, the census returns of 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901 are nominal, listing each person individually, with details as to age, sex, country or province of birth, religious denomination, racial origin, occupation, marital status and education. The 1901 returns also include date of birth and year of immigration. For 1851, 1861 and 1871, there are some agricultural returns, which give lot and concession numbers of the farm, and provide details such as acreage, livestock, and agricultural products. Additional schedules have survived for the 1871 census, including business returns and schedules of deaths in the preceding year.

Census returns are arranged by Districts, which usually correspond to a county or city. Each District is divided into sub-districts, which usually correspond with townships, parishes, towns, larger villages, Lots (Prince Edward Island), rural municipalities and city wards. Smaller communities were enumerated within the surrounding township or parish.

About the Database

This database combines our two published Catalogues of Census Returns on Microfilm into an on-line version. It allows researchers to search by place name to identify relevant microfilm reel numbers for census returns they wish to search.

The Search Screen

The Search screen has two fields into which you can enter a value:

The Province/Territory is a series of check boxes that allow you to select a specific province or the territory. If you do not know the province or territory for the place you are searching, this section can be left blank.

The Geographic Location is a keyword field that allows you to enter any place name, whether it be county, city, township, village or parish. If that name exists as a census district or sub-district, a results set will be returned. You can enter a place name with or without the county/district name. Examples: enter the words Marshall Digby or just Marshall.

Note that smaller places were not enumerated separately. Those residents would have been included within the returns of the surrounding parish or township. Please see our Frequently Asked Questions for suggestions for locating place names.

Saint/Sainte/St./Ste. place names appear in the database with the abbreviations St and Ste with a hypen, for example, St-Joseph-de-Sorel, St-Stephen, Ste-Anne, etc. The exception is the County and City of Saint John, New Brunswick, which is always spelled in full.

Do not use the terms parish or township in your query, e.g. Kent Parish in New Brunswick appears in the database as Kent, not Kent Parish.

Generally, present-day spellings of place names have been used and may sometimes differ slightly from those found on the original census forms. Entries have been standardized where possible, abbreviated words have been written out in full and cross-references have been supplied.

How to Interpret the Results

A successful query will return a result set page with the number of results determined by the number of records matching the search string and the number of references of pages (defaults to 20 references per page).

Each result page will display a line above the first result which indicates the search term(s) used and the number of successful hits or references.

A successful reference will contain the following fields:

  • Place (census Sub-district)
  • County/District/City (census District)
  • Year
  • Microfilm reel number

Some "see" and "see also" cross-references are also indicated to direct users to relevant entries.

For 1861, Quebec and Ontario entries indicate if a particular microfilm reel contains nominal or agricultural returns. Nominal refers to census returns that contain names and personal information. Agricultural refers to census returns that contain information about the land and agricultural products reported by each head-of-household enumerated in the corresponding nominal returns.

For 1891, the returns for institutions across the country, such as hospitals, asylums, prisons and orphanages, are all contained on one microfilm reel. Those references appear in the database as follows:

1891 T-6427 Institutions

In 1901, there are two schedules. Schedule 1 shows the names of individuals and Schedule 2 shows their property locations. For most places, those schedules were microfilmed together for each sub-district. For British Columbia and most of Manitoba, they were microfilmed separately. Those references are identified in this database with the notation Locations and Names, e.g.:

1901 T-6429 Names
1901 T-6436 Locations

If you know the address in Toronto, you can identify the district and sub-district numbers, courtesy of the Ontario Roots web site.

For some places, the county/district is not the same for each census year, depending on boundary changes. For example, Dawn Township was enumerated within Lambton County in 1851 and 1861, and within Bothwell County from 1871 to 1901.

Note that most microfilm reels contain census returns for more than one district and some districts appear on more than one reel.

How and Where to Consult the Records

Census microfilm reels for all years are available for consultation on-site at Library and Archives Canada, at many libraries and provincial archives and through inter-institutional loan.

Purchase Microfilm

Some libraries and other institutions or organizations may wish to purchase census microfilm reels for their collections. Information about purchasing microfilm can be found under Services: Obtain copies of records.