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Source Information

Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1861 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.

Appreciation is expressed to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for providing the 1861 Canada Census Index.


Original data:
  • Canada. "Census returns for 1861." LAC microfilm C-999 to C-1007, C-1010 to C-1093, C-1095 to C-1108, C-1232 to C-1331, M-1165 to M-1166, M-1168 to M-1171, M-556, M-874 to M-878, M-880 to M-886, M-896 to M-900. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa.
  • Census of Nova Scotia, 1861. Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM): Nova Scotia Board of Statistics, 1861.

NS Archives and Records Management gives no warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or fitness for the purpose of the information provided. Images may be used only for purposes of research, private study or education. Infringement of this condition may result in legal action.


Images are reproduced with the permission of Library and Archives Canada.

About 1861 Census of Canada

Since Canada didn’t officially become a country until 1867, the first national census wasn’t held until 1871. The 1861 Census of Canada is a collection of five provincial censuses.

This database contains a name index to these censuses along with images of the original records. Due to the poor quality of the original filming, some images are unreadable or very difficult to read. As a result, some names may not appear in the index.

What Areas are Included:

Censuses were taken throughout different times of the year in the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Canada East (Lower Canada, or roughly southern Quebec), and Canada West (Upper Canada, or roughly southern Ontario).

Note: Not all of the 1861 censuses have survived, so this database does not contain a complete representation of the above areas.

Why Census Records are Important:

Census records provide many details about individuals and families. They are useful for pinpointing individuals and families in a particular time and place and depict certain aspects of their lives. Because of the amount of information provided in censuses, combined with the fact that individuals are generally shown in “family groups”, censuses are often the first sources turned to when beginning family history research.

How the Census is Organized:

Most of the areas are organized by census, polling, or enumeration district. This was generally done by county. Within each county records are organized by city, township, or village name.

Enumerator Instructions:

Different forms were used for the enumerations of Canada East and West, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island only recorded the names of the heads of households, while New Brunswick, Canada East and Canada West recorded the names of everyone in the household.

Some forms covered two or more pages, so when looking at the census images, it may be necessary to navigate forwards and backwards in order to see an entire person’s (or household’s) enumeration.

In Canada East and West the census recorded the names of every person who abode in the house on the night of Sunday, January the 13th, 1861. This included both residents and transient passengers. Individuals who were absent the night of the 13th were to be enumerated in the place in which they were usually resident. The following questions asked by enumerators included:

  • Name
  • Profession, trade or occupation
  • Birthplace
  • Married during the year
  • Religion
  • Residence, if out of limits
  • Age at next birthday
  • Gender
  • Marital status – married, single, widower, or widow
  • Whether a colored person, mulatto, or Indian
  • Whether a family member or non-family member
  • Whether an absent family member
  • Whether deaf and dumb, blind, lunatic, or idiot
  • Children attending school within the year
  • Persons over 20 who cannot read or write
  • Number and gender of births in 1860
  • Number and gender of deaths in 1860 - Age and cause of death

Other information regarding homes, buildings, farms, and businesses were also recorded.

The New Brunswick census covered the entire province. The official enumeration date is said to have been August 15th. However, most of the enumerations were completed later that year. This census included the following questions:

  • Name
  • Gender
  • Relationship to head of family
  • Age
  • Race and where born
  • Rank or occupation
  • Children at school within the year
  • Whether sick, infirm, deaf and dumb, blind, lunatic or idiot
  • Births in the previous year
  • Deaths in the previous year
  • Marriages in the previous year

The Nova Scotia census covered the entire province and listed just the heads of households. The following information was obtained:

  • Name of head of household
  • Total number of males and females in the household according to age categories
  • Number of births since March 30, 1860
  • Number of deaths in the household since March 30, 1860 according to age categories
  • Marital status
  • Number of deaf and dumb, blind, lunatic, or idiot according to gender
  • Number of individuals that cannot read and write according to age and gender categories
  • Number of individuals married since March 30, 1860

The census of Prince Edward Island enumerated the heads of families. The following information was recorded:

  • Name of head of household
  • Trade, profession, or occupation
  • Number of males and females in the household according to age categories
  • Number of deaf and dumb, blind and insane in each family
  • Number who have not been vaccinated or had the small pox in each family
  • Total number in each family (including servants and apprentices)
  • Number of married and single persons in each family
  • Number of your family married during the past year
  • Number of births and deaths in your family during the past year
  • Number of persons in the family associated with various religions

Other questions regarding the family’s home and land were also asked.

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