Source Information 1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.
Original data:
  • Census of 1851 (Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia). Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Canada.
  • Census of Nova Scotia, 1851. Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: Nova Scotia Archives and Records Management (NSARM): Nova Scotia Board of Statistics, 1851.

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About 1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia

In 1851 an act was passed that repealed previous census acts and called for a more effectual census taking of the Province of Canada, which was comprised of Canada East and Canada West.

Meanwhile, both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had received instruction in 1849 from the Secretary of State that a census should be taken in 1851; a census was being conducted in England that same year and it was thought that all British colonies should likewise conduct a census.

Though both of these censuses began in 1851, much of them were conducted in 1852. Therefore, sometimes this census is referred to as the Census of 1852.

What Areas are Included:

The 1851 census includes the areas of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Canada East (Lower Canada, or roughly Quebec), and Canada West (Upper Canada, or roughly Ontario).

Note: Not all of the 1851 census has survived, so this database does not contain a complete representation of the above areas. The missing areas are still listed in the browse portion of this database but are shown as non-links.

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:

For the 1851 census each province/colony was divided into census districts. These districts were subsequently divided into sub-districts. Districts were roughly equivalent to electoral districts, cities, and counties. Sub-Districts were based off of towns, townships, and survey land descriptions. Each District and Sub-District was assigned a number for administrative purposes. The District Number is unique only to the province in which it belongs and the Sub-District Number is unique only to the District in which it belongs.

Enumerator Instructions:

Different forms were used for the enumeration of Canada East and West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.

In Canada East and West every person who sojourned in the house on the night of Sunday, 11 January 1852, as well as individuals who usually lived at the house, but were absent on that night, were to be enumerated. The following questions were asked by enumerators:

  • Name
  • Profession, trade, or occupation
  • Birthplace (Those born of Canadian parents were denoted with an ‘F’)
  • Religion
  • Residence, if outside of limits (the address of those who were not enumerated ad their usual place of abode)
  • Age at next birthday
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Whether a coloured person
  • Whether Native Canadian
  • Whether actually a family member of the household
  • Whether not a family member of the household
  • Whether a member of the family, but not present
  • Whether deaf and dumb, blind, or a lunatic
  • Whether attending school
  • Whether born during the year 1851
  • Whether died during the year 1851
  • If died, age and cause of death

Other information regarding homes and buildings was also recorded.

In Nova Scotia, the following information was obtained:

  • Name of head of household
  • Number of household members in various categories, including age and gender
  • Whether deaf and dumb, blind, lunatic, or idiot
  • Whether a Native Canadian
  • Whether a coloured person
  • Occupation
  • Religion

Additional information regarding buildings, properties, land, and various occupations and manufacturers was also obtained.

In New Brunswick the following questions were asked:

  • Name
  • Gender
  • Relationship
  • Age
  • Race – whether ‘White’, ‘Coloured’, or ‘Indian’
  • Rank or occupation
  • Date of entering the colony
  • Whether sick or infirm