Using the Index to the 1901 Census of Canada

The index to the 1901 Census of Canada is a web site that makes it possible to search for people in the census by name. In 2002, the National Archives, now the Library and Archives of Canada, made images of the original 1901 census forms available on their web site, but with no way to search by name. Since that time more than two thousand volunteers have been working on creating a free index to the census on the web site:

As of February 10th, 2005, transcription of the census is 98.7% complete, with all provinces except for Quebec complete. Proof reading and corrections are ongoing processes.

How to make the most of the site

The site is different from prior census transcription projects in a few notable ways. Firstly, the site is an online index rather than a transcription. Rather than transcribing all the columns on the census form we have only transcribed the columns from the personal information columns, and then provided a link to the image of the original census form. Each page in the census has a corresponding page in the index and at the top of each page of the index there is a link to the image of the original:

Image:  View the image using a split screen or new window.

If you click on split screen the browser window will be split in two with the top half displaying the image from the Library and Archives web site and the bottom half showing the transcribed data. At the top of the page are a set of links that allow you to view different lines on the page:

Vertical position: top(1-10) upper(10-21) middle(21-32) lower(32-43) bottom(43-50) top of page

This easy access to the image of the original allows the researcher to verify the transcription and access the columns in the census that were not included in the index, including: country or place of birth, year of immigration to Canada, racial or tribal origin, nationality, religion, occupation, and several more. To view the columns that cannot be seen using just the scrollbar below the image you can use the right arrow icon above the image: . Depending on the resolution of your computer display you may need to use the scrollbar below the image to bring this icon into view.

In the simplest case you can simply type in a surname and optional initial in a search box. To search the entire census use the search box on the National Summary page. If you know what province the person of interest lived in it will be quicker and you will have fewer results to look through if you use the search form on the provincial summary page for that province. Likewise if you know which district they lived in you will get quicker response and fewer matches if you use the search form on the district summary page for that district. Using the search forms for smaller areas is particularly useful when searching for a common surname.

If the person you are searching for is in the list of matches simply click on the line number in the right-most column of the match listing to go to the census page they appeared on. You can then click on the split screen link at the top of the page to view the original form. The names in the index are transcribed as they were written in the original, so if the person you are searching for is not listed you will want to check if they are listed under an alternate spelling. The site provides some tools to make this easier. The first tool is that when you do a search for a name the site produces a list of other surnames that have the same soundex code. Each listed name is a link and you can check the listings for that name by simply clicking on the link. Alternately, if there are several plausible names you can click the checkbox next to those names and then click on the Merge button to produce a listing that combines the listings for all the selected names. For example, searching for the surname Mitton in New Brunswick lists these names with the same soundex code:

M?????ton M?tmo?? Madden Maden Matin Mitten Mittin

You might select M?????ton, Mitten, and Mittin and click Merge to produce a listing of all the likely Mitton variations in New Brunswick.

In some cases the enumerator may have written the name in a way that gives it a different soundex code, making it harder to find. In these cases it may be useful to browse the surname index for the area the person lived in. At the national, district, and subdistrict levels you can browse a list of all the surnames that occur in the area. In some cases you may be able to recognize a possible spelling variation that soundex does not catch. This is especially true if the writing was illegable and has been transcribed including one or more ? characters. If you know the area the person lived in browsing the surname listing for the area can often turn up possible matches.

The site has another mechanism to help deal with unusual spellings, where a name is found with a spelling that makes it unlikely to be found, a note can be added that gives the usual spelling of the name, this note will then show up in the surname listings and on the page the record appears on. When you search for a name, a note will appear at the top of the search results saying that such notes exist for that name with a link to a list of such records:

There are surname notes with suggested surname of Patten.

These notes are not intended to deal with minor spelling variations that are caught by soundex (e.g. Mitton and Mitten) but rather spellings that make it unlikely that a researcher will find the record (e.g. Harceno for Arsenault).

If you find an error

There are two types of error that commonly occur in the index. The most common type of error is that the enumerator spelled a name incorrectly or was given incorrect information. The index reflects the historical document and cannot be modified to suit our beliefs of what "should be" there, so these errors must be left as is. In come cases the transcriber made an error interpreting the enumerators handwriting or a simple typo and we encourage you to report this type of error so it can be corrected. To report an error on a page look for some red text near the top of the page with a link in the middle:

-> If you find a transcription error on this page please use the proof page to verify the error is in the transcription and not the original, and then report it.

Click on the link and follow the instructions. There is a link to detailed help at the top of the proof page if you should need it.

Other features on the site

The site includes a set of message boards for discussion of the census, questions, and error reports. There are links to the message boards in the upper left corner of the site and in the Other Features section of the National Summary page.

The index includes over forty thousand links from census records to other related records. The bulk of these links are to birth records for individuals in New Brunswick but many links to other types of records are included. For examples see the Examples of Link types link under Documentation on the National Summary page. There are many other useful links in the Documentation section.