From the collection of Library and Archives Canada
De la collection de Bibliothèque et Archives Canada.
About the 1931 Census of Canada
General collection information
The 1931 Census of Canada became available to the general public 92 years after it was conducted and includes valuable genealogical information. These records were recorded during a time of great historical significance and may help you discover more about how the Great Depression affected your family.
Thanks to our proprietary handwriting recognition technology, the 1931 Census of Canada records are now searchable. Please keep in mind that diacritical and accent marks may not appear and are not required to search names. Transcription accuracy is dependent upon the quality of the document being scanned. For best results, view the census image.
The census was written in English and French and was broken down into six schedules, or sets of questions based on situation:
This collection includes the population schedules for 1931. City enumeration districts tend to be small and dense, while rural districts are usually geographically larger with sparser populations. Once you find someone in the census, you can explore their enumeration district in city directories, and telephone books to learn more about their community and how they lived.
Using the collection
Records in the collection may include the following information:
Conducted during the Great Depression, the 1931 census included questions about unemployment. If applicable, you may also find the following information:
Knowing your family's address can be very helpful, especially if they lived in a large city. If you don't have that information, using the 1921 Census of Canada to find your family's census division and subdivision is an excellent starting point. You can also consult the 1931 Census of Canada Population Summary for a list of townships and subdivisions. Due to the Great Depression, many people were transient or unhoused, making them difficult to count. If you're having difficulty finding your family members, Canada has a wealth of civic and vital records available, including civil registration and parish records. Try searching Ancestry's catalogue of Canadian records for additional information. Consulting historical maps can also aid your search.
Canada uses the de jure method of enumeration, meaning a person's records are included with their district of permanent residence rather than their place of enumeration. This information is especially helpful to know if you are looking for students, hotel guests, members of the armed forces, or migratory workers.
If your family member was born or died in 1931, they may not be included in this collection. Census day, June 1st, was the deadline for inclusion. Individuals are included if they died after June 1st, as are babies born before June 1st.
Collection in context
Census taking began on 1 June, 1931, and was the seventh national census since Canada's confederation in 1867. The main purpose of the census was to use population data to determine parliamentary representation accurately. Data was collected by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics, then published as a thirteen-volume analysis. Overall, the census recorded over 10 million people, indicating Canada experienced a population growth of 18 percent since the previous census.
Held during the height of the Great Depression, the seventh national census differed from previous years by including an expanded section about unemployment. Government officials hoped that the data gathered by the census would help combat economic problems. Interestingly, collecting census data would provide aid for a small segment of the unemployed population. Working as an enumerator paid five cents per person counted, offering temporary income to those hired. Enumerators were thoroughly trained and were required to work until their district was fully counted. Biases and assumptions based on the part of the enumerator may also be present in the records.
CanGenealogy. "1931 Census Introduction." Last Modified 15 March, 2023. http://www.cangenealogy.com/1931-intro.html.
CanGenealogy. "1931 Census Research Tips." Last Modified 15 March, 2023. http://www.cangenealogy.com/1931-research.html.
Government of Canada. "Seventh Census of Canada, 1931." Last Modified 3 April, 2013. https://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.832354/publication.html.
Government of Canada. "1931 Census of Canada to be Released on 1 June, 2023," Last Modified 14 March, 2023. https://www.canada.ca/en/library-archives/news/2023/03/1931-census-of-canada-to-be-released-on-june-1-2023.html.
Library and Archives Canada Blog. "Finding Royalton: Searching the 1921 Census." Last Modified 26 April, 2018. https://thediscoverblog.com/tag/1921-census/.
Library and Archives Canada Blog. "Why We Are Excited About the 1931 Census." Last Modified 11 May, 2023. https://thediscoverblog.com/tag/1931-canadian-census/.
Thompson Rivers University Library. "History of the Census." Last Modified 22 November, 2022. https://libguides.tru.ca/censuscanada/history.
University of Toronto Libraries. "1931 Census of Canada." Last Modified 10 February, 2015. https://mdl.library.utoronto.ca/collections/numeric-data/census-canada/1931.