Historical census records are a key source of genealogical information. The first census to be taken in the area of modern Canada was a census of New France in 1666. A number of local and regional censuses were taken at varying intervals until 1851, when there was a census of Canada West (Ontario), Canada East (Quebec), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Since 1851 a census has been taken every 10 years. Special censuses of the prairie provinces were taken in 1906 and 1916.
Canadian census records are released to the public after 92 years. The most recent available is 1921.
- The table below includes only databases that can be nominally searched. Library and Archives Canada has searchable Canadian Census databases from 1825-1916. The 1921 Canadian Census is available through Ancestry Library Edition, which is available at VPL locations only; no remote access.
Vancouver Public Library collection includes microfilms of all Canadian census records from 1666-1916.
To identify the appropriate census microfilm reel for the geographic area in which your ancestor resided, refer to the following books:
- Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm, 1666-1891 (online)
- Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm, 1901
If your ancestor farmed on the prairie provinces and you have a land description of their farm (a series of numbers assigned by the Dominion Land Survey), the following book may help you find the correct 1901 census reel:
A microfilm copy of the 1916 Census of the Prairie Provinces is available on Level 6 at the Central Library. These records cover Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. To view the digitized microfilm see the Census of the Prairie Provinces, 1916 on the Library and Archives website.
Complete nominal indexes to pre-1851 Canadian census records are available online through FamilySearch. Please see the Records Online tab for links to the databases.
Some print or electronic (CD-ROM or web) format indexes are also available. Specific dates and regions have been transcribed and/or indexed by individuals or local genealogical societies.
Similar collections of census data are available for specific portions of the 1851-1911 censuses. While most researchers will want to begin with the comprehensive 1851-1911 databases listed above, compilations produced by individuals and local groups - when available - may be useful as a backup.
To locate indexes in printed or CD-ROM format for a particular location, use the online library catalogue:
- Enter census indexes [name of place]as your keywords
To locate individually or locally produced web-based census transcriptions and indexes, use the Library and Archives Canada’s AVITUS - Directory of Resources database.