Monday, 9 May 2016

Being Part of the Count

The latest Canadian census will be taken on May 10, 2016. My notice from Statistics Canada contained an access code so that I could fill out my census questionnaire online. Really - online, what a change there has been over the years.

Genealogists are well placed to notice changes in enumeration practices as they regularly use the information from census returns in their research. Typically taken every ten years, the census returns offer snapshots of families. New releases of census years are much anticipated. Family history researchers can't wait to search for their families in the latest release and there is much speculation when family members are missing. The latest Canadian census that is accessible is the 1921 census. There are quite a few census years which are available before 1921. Canadian censuses began even before there was a Canada.

When census taking began back in the mid 1800's, enumerators were hired to visit dwellings and write down the information which the householders gave them. Sounds simple doesn't it? Just think about it. Travel from place to place wasn't easy, there were no cars and, in many places, houses were few and far between. People then were wary of giving information to the government; many didn't know their ages or the spelling of their names. Enumerators ran into all sorts of problems trying to get the answers for the census questionnaires. The enumerator for the 1852 census of Puslinch, Wellington County in Canada West wrote this comment in his part of the census, “I could not find out the proper name of the person called something Morison because the parents could not speak English. They spoke the Galic which is very prevalent in the south of Puslinch amongst the Hiland Scotch.” Clearly, this enumerator's job was not an easy one.

Even if the job was difficult it mostly got done for which genealogist and researchers are grateful. We just hope that wayward Morison wasn't one of our missing ancestors.

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