23 July 2008

When was the 1891 Canadian census actually taken?

The official date for the census, just released in indexed and digitized form by Ancestry, is 6 April 1891. But, as pointed out by Library and Archives Canada, actual enumeration took weeks or months.

Enumerators were instructed to record the information on the census returns as it existed on the official enumeration date. The further the actual date of enumeration from the official date the greater the chance of error. You can assess this as the enumerator was required to record the actual date on each form, and mostly they did.

A survey of 36 forms across Canada found only two that were enumerated on April 6th; 23 were enumerated in April, ten in May, one in July and one in August. The later registrations were in British Columbia.

Amazingly populations for the country as a whole, and for major centres, were tabled in the House of Commons on 27 August 1891. With all the technology at Stats Can's command it takes them much longer to produce any results today.

Even if Stats Can could perform as well today the figures couldn't be tabled -- Parliament wouldn't be sitting in August!

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