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We have the 1921 Census, now what?

by Christine H - 1 Comment(s)

Electoral Atlas of Canada 1895

Electoral Atlas of Canada, Yale & Cariboo, 1895

(This probably won't help if you have family on the Prairies or other Unorganized Territories, but may be helpful for other areas)

Genealogists were very excited when the images of the 1921 Canadian census were released to Library and Archives Canada and then put into Ancestry’s database. The ardor has somewhat cooled as many of the researchers found out that there is no name index and to find ancestors, we will need to know where they were living and then, and this is the difficult part, find out what census division and subdivision they were in. (Unless, of course, you want to scan each of the nearly 8.8 million names one by one.)

But genealogists, never ones to accept the status quo, and even less likely to want to wait for the name index to be compiled, are pulling together resources to help us find those divisions and subdivisions and offering suggestions for using the records. I’ve pulled together a few and welcome any other suggestions. According to Ancestry, the census districts were roughly equivalent to electoral districts, cities or counties. Sub-districts were often parts of cities such as wards, townships, institutions, reservations, etc. This is not always the case but it is a good place to start.

In some cases, you can check for the district and sub-district in the 1911 census, which is free to search through Automated Genealogy. This can work if your ancestors didn’t move in the intervening 10 years and if the districts and divisions hadn’t changed. I tried this with my Saskatchewan ancestors and came up empty, but it is a good place to start.

If you had ancestors who were First Nations and living on a reserve, ancestors who were criminals and were incarcerated on census day or an ancestor who was confined to a hospital on the day of the census, you may be in luck as these institutions were often enumerated separately. Again, you need to have a general idea of where they were, but as you go through the list of sub-divisions under each division you will see the reservations, penitentiaries and other institutions listed in the descriptions.

If your people did move around and especially if they were urbanites, city directories can be invaluable. More and more of them are being digitized and can be searched online. Directories for towns and cities on the Prairies are available through Peel’s Prairie Provinces .

Other directory digitization projects can be found through Library and Archives Canada.

You can also find directories (among many other wonderful things) at You can search the archive with the place name and the term ‘directory’ to see what is available. I was able to find a 1921 directory for Saskatchewan, which allowed me to find the name and address of the orphanage in Prince Albert where my grandmother was sent, which allowed me to locate her in the 1921 census.

And it is always worth having a look at the website for the library in the area you are researching. Many libraries offer a look-up service so if the directory you need isn’t available digitally, the local library may have it in paper.

There are some very dedicated genealogists who are pulling together finding aids for the 1921 census.

Parts of Toronto – Rob Hoare has posted this finding aid for parts of Toronto:

Kingston Frontenac Public Library has published this for their area:

British Columbia Genealogical Society has this site to help guide you through their province:

And if you have Doukhobor ancestors, the Doukhobor genealogy website has pulled together a list of settlements:


Do you have any tips? I would appreciate hearing from you. Just post a comment to this site and I’ll add it to the list.


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by Tereasa

Just a note on Aboriginal - you can also find census information and details through treaty paylists which you can access through Library and Archives Canada. Most start around 1890 and continue to after the 1940s.

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