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The Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), Département de Démographie, Université de Montréal, hosts several research and database construction projects based on the study and use of nineteenth-century Canadian historical censuses. Our current historical census database construction projects focus upon the Canadian censuses of 1852 and 1881. Together, these projects offer tremendous opportunities for historical, demographic and genealogical research.

The 1852 Canadian census was the first Canadian census to collect individual-level information on all household members. The 1852 Canadian census database based on this enumeration represents 20% of the population of Upper Canada and Lower Canada which was enumerated in 1852 and for which schedules of the manuscript census survive, an equivalent of 235,341 cases. The 1852 Census will also serve to close the period of observation covered by the Registre de la population du Québec ancien, a family reconstitution database which comprises Québec Catholic baptismal, marriage and burial certifications which date back to 1624. Since most of the census schedules for Canadian cities in 1852 have been destroyed, the 1852 Canadian census database will best server researchers interested in the socio-economic characteristics of rural Canadians at the beginning of the modern statistical era in Canada.

The 20% sample of the existing 1852 Census of Canada West and Canada East, including approximately 259,000 persons, is now complete. To order to provide researchers and members of the public with a 100% version of this database, the PRDH is now searching volunteers who are interested in helping us transcribe the remaining 80% of this census. Currently, the PRDH offers the opportunity to conduct name searches on the 20% sample of the 1852 census; this web-based browser is based on a similar one which we have developed for the 1881 Census of Canada. Persons searching for individuals within this 20% sample have a 20% (or one-in-five) chance of finding an ancestor who is recorded on surviving copies of the manuscript 1852 Canadian census, and a 14% chance of finding an ancestor who was enumerated in the 1852 Canadian census in the first instance.

Please visit this page to learn more about how you can join our project as a data-entry volunteer.

The 1881 Canadian census database is a 100% sample of the 1881 Canadian census, including 4.3 million cases. Since this database covers the entire enumerated Canadian population in 1881, it is one of our most important resources for the study of social and economic organization during Canada 's formative period. Together, the 1852 and 1881 Canadian census databases offer immense possibilities for research and analysis of Canadian society during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Research opportunities with the 1852 and 1881 Canadian census microdata extend beyond use of these research files on their own. First, the 1852 and 1881 Canadian census microdata can be used in conjunction with Canadian census microdata from 1871 (York University), 1891 (Guelph University), 1901 (University of Victoria), as well as twentieth-century Canadian census microdata currently under construction by the Canadian Century Research Infrastructure. Right now, the PRDH team works on the 1871 - 1881 census record linkage project which links individuals and married couples who appear in both the 1871 and 1881 Canadian database samples. To date, this project has linked over 12,000 married persons across both censuses. The resulting database will facilitate the study of household and individual changes over a ten-year period, particularly among younger and middle-aged adults who did not migrate from their place of birth and who lived on farms. Second, these data will also be harmonized with corresponding historical census microdata from the United States , England, Scotland and Wales, Norway, Iceland and Sweden ( North Atlantic Population Project). Third, individuals who appear in the 1852 and 1881 Canadian census data can be linked to neighbouring census years, as well as to complementary historical data sources such as the Québec Catholic parish registers.

Last updated: 2/10/2021

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