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Suggested citation: Department of Agriculture (Census Branch). Manual Containing "The Census Act" and the Instructions to Officers Employed in the Taking of the Second Census of Canada (1881). Ottawa: 1881.

Note to readers: Page numbers for the English and French instructions are provided below for citation purposes. You will observe that the page numbers for the English instructions are all even-numbered, while those for the French instructions are all odd-numbered. The original manual printed the English and French instructions on opposing pages; the English instructions were printed on even-numbered pages and the French instructions were printed on odd-numbered pages.

Manual containing the Census Act and the Instructions

To officers employed in taking of the second census of Canada (1881)
Department of Agriculture (Census Branch), Ottawa

Printed by Brown Chamberlin,
Printer to the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty.

"Instructions to Officers,"

The principle adopted for the registration of the population is that which is called by statists the population de droit or de jure; that is, the population legally domiciled within the territory of the Dominion, and including all persons who may be temporarily absent from their place of abode, whether at the fisheries, at sea, or in the forest wilderness.

All persons are to be registered in the province and particular locality in which their home, family dwelling, or place of abode is situate, although they may happen to be in other parts of the Dominion, - in the forest, or at sea, or in foreign parts, on the day with reference to which the Census is taken, that is, the 4th of April, 1881.

In order to make the details of this system of registration very clearly understood, cases that will occur in practice are furnished in the form of instructions, as follow:-
Sea-faring men or fishermen at sea or on the coast, lumbermen or hunters in the forest,
merchants, or tradesmen, or laborers, or travellers, or students, or any others happening to be temporarily absent from home and not permanently settled elsewhere, are not to be considered as absent for the purpose of the census: but their names are to be registered by the enumerator as being present.

Therefore, the names of seamen at sea, college students and school children, of the sick in
hospitals, of inmates temporarily present in educational, charitable or penal institutions, are to be taken down in their own provinces, at their own domiciles or homes, and not at temporary abiding places or institutions. In other words, all living members of one family are to be registered as being present at the family abode, unless they are settled in homes of their own, or have left the country with intention not to return.

When, therefore, an enumerator finds any person in one province of the Dominion, whose
home or dwelling is in another, he is to be careful not to make any entry in his schedules; as the registration is to be made in the province where his home is.

Servants come under three categories, and are to be dealt with in the following manner:-

  • Those having or belonging to, families or homes of their own within the Dominion, are to be taken with their own families.
  • Those not having, or belonging to, families or homes of their own within the Dominion, are to be taken as part of the families with which they may happen to be living.
  • Those in settled employment and resident with any family are to be taken as not having or belonging to a family or home of their own.

Persons having no family abode and no fixed domicile of any kind are, of course, to be registered wherever met with, whether on boardship, in shanties, public institutions, or private houses. Orphans kept in public institutions or private families are, accordingly, to be taken with such institutions or families. Homeless, sick or destitute persons in asylums and hospitals, and prisoners without family abode, or sentenced for life, are to be taken in the institutions or prisons where they happen to be.

A Family, as understood for the purpose of the Census, may consist of one person living alone, or of any number of persons living together under one roof, and having their food provided together. For example: One man, say a shopkeeper, or one woman, say a seamstress, living alone in a separate house, or in a distinctly separate part of a house, would constitute a census family; but any number of persons living together in a boarding-house, several of them being parents, having children and servants, would only constitute one census family, provided they had no home elsewhere.

The census returns of Population and Property are to consist of the statement of facts as they actually exist on the 4th day of April, 1881.

Returns, which are to embrace a yearly Period, such as the numbers of births and deaths, the enumeration of products are to be counted for the twelve months immediately preceding the 4th of April. The headings of the columns afford a clear indication of the nature of each category.

Therefore, any person who was alive on the 4th of April, 1881, although he may have died between that date and the date of the enumerator's visit, is to be recorded as if living; and, for the same reason, infants who may have been born after the 4th of April, 1881, are not to be recorded, whether dead or alive.

The Duties of each class of officers employers employed are defined by the Census Act, herewith published. The remuneration of commissioners and enumerators will be as settled by His Excellency in Council, pursuant to the 22nd section of the Census Act; no payment can legally be made until the whole of their work is completed in a satisfactory manner.

The Enumeration, as the law prescribes, must be taken down in writing by the enumerator himself, he going personally from house to house, and writing in the schedules, in the most scrupulous manner, the answers given to the questions arising out of the headings, in order of their numbering.

The information, which is in every case recorded, must be the definite answer of the person to whom the questions is put; and the enumerator is never to take upon himself to insert anything which is not stated or distinctly acknowledge by the person giving the information. It would be criminal to insert anything contrary to the declaration of such person.

But it is the duty of the enumerator so far to assist the person giving the information, as to point out to him any apparent error, or indicate any apparent fact omitted. In every case he must carefully read over the facts he has taken to the person from whom he has obtained them, for checking the correctness of his entries.

In case of refusal of any person to answer questions put which are necessary to obtain
information required for filling the schedules, or of the enumerator receiving any information which is apparently untrue, it is his duty to warn such person against the consequences of such criminal course; and if it is persisted in, his duty then will be to bring the offender to justice, as provided by the Act.

In other words, the enumerator is the recorder of answers to questions put by authority of the Executive, under the sanction of law; but it is required that he be an intelligent and conscientious officer, not a mere machine; and his duty is to guard himself and all concerned against errors and frauds.

In all cases of difficulty--and such cases will occasionally arise--the enumerator must
deal with them in the best possible manner, taking for his guide the spirit of the law, and the general tenor of this Manual. He must endeavour--

  • Not to omit anything of importance.
  • Not to record the same thing twice.
  • Not to exaggerate anything.
  • Not to underrate anything.

The very best way of fulfilling these conditions, and fairly and properly performing his duties, is for the enumerator to make a painstaking study of his schedules and this Manual, and to thoroughly acquaint himself with all particulars and peculiarities of his division.

An intelligent and well-trained enumerator will, in fact, generally speaking, know beforehand what are, as a whole, the conditions of every family in his division.

It is necessary, for the success of the census, that the intercourse of the enumerators with the public be characterised, on the part of these officers, with discretion and forbearance. Every objection made, or question put to the enumerators, must be met with proper, satisfactory and courteous explanations.

Persons having apprehensions, or showing hesitation in giving their answers, must be assured that no information they may give, and that nothing taken down in the schedules, can, by possibility, injure, or in any way affect their standing or their business. The enumerator will act under oath, and his duty will be to preserve the strictest secrecy, as well with respect to any verbal statements made to him, as well with respect to any verbal statements made to him, as to his enumeration records. He is not permitted to show, or in any way to communicate these, to any person whatever, except to the commissioner of his own district, or to the chief officer in charge thereof; both of whom also act under oath and are forbidden, under any circumstances, to communicate anything therein contained to any person whatever, except to other sworn officers of the Department, all bound by the like prohibition.

The commissioners and enumerators are forbidden to give any synopsis of the result of the census, or any part thereof, to any one. Partial communication of information is calculated to produce mischief, if not to mislead, and may be made subservient to purposes totally unconnected with the census, and detrimental to it. The result will be given by the Department in a careful and comprehensive manner, at the earliest possible period.

It is required of all officers connected with taking the census, that they bring to the accomplishment of their task that discretion generally necessary on the part of all public servants, but especially so where duties of great trust and delicacy are to be performed.

It is further specially required of every census officer, that he is to make himself thoroughly acquainted with the whole matter before his actual work commences. It is not the time for study or enquiry after the work commences, but for action. If an enumerator find difficulties after the commencement of his travels, he must bring to their solution his best intellectual faculties, aided by his previously acquired information respecting census matters; and he should consult the Manual and specimen schedules, which he must always keep in his portfolio. When commencing his actual duties, the enumerator is recommended to make his first entries with the greatest care, spending more time upon these than will be subsequently required.

In case an enumerator meets a difficulty of a special and exceptional character, he is required to make a short notice in the column of remarks of the schedule in which it occurs, explaining the manner in which he has met it.

All documents sent to the officers, commissioners, and enumerators, are, in their nature, private, with the exception, of course, of "The Census Act," the Manual, and such as have been published in the "Canada Gazette."


Nominal Return of the Living

This schedule refers to The Living, and will contain the actual population, registered name by name, family by family, taken from house to house. The population is to be recorded as it will exist on the 4th day of April, 1881.

Column 1. Every vessel being the abode and domicile of a family, or on board which there may happen to be any person or persons belonging to out population, not having a domicile on shore, is to be registered in this column. Every vessel is to be numbered in this column in the order of visitation, as shown in specimen schedule, from 1 to the last vessel so met in the enumerator's subdistrict, in consecutive series. If, however, the enumerator is entrusted with the taking of two subdistricts, he is required to act the part of two distinct enumerators, as hereinbefore explained.

Column 2. In this column are to be numbered, in the same manner, all dwellings of a temporary character, only inhabited for a part of the year, such as lumbering shanties, public works shanties, fishermen's huts, Indian wigwams.

Column 3 and 4 are to record the houses in construction, and those uninhabited, as they are met with,--without reference to the names recorded; as will be seen in perusing the specimen schedules. If houses in construction, or uninhabited, are met with in rows, as is often the case in towns, then the recording is to be written by giving the number in the row, 2 or 5, as the case may be; when met with singly by the number 1.

Column 5. Dwelling-houses inhabited are to be numbered in this column, in order of visitation, in consecutive series, from the beginning to the end of each enumerator's division. There may be several families in the same house; but the house would, nevertheless, only constitute one house, as shown in the specimen schedule. A separate house is to be counted whenever the entrance from the outside is separate.

Column 6. Every family is to be numbered in this column in the order of visitation, in consecutive series, as illustrated in the specimen schedule.

Column 7. The names of every living person, belonging to each family (according to the rules hereinbefore laid down) are to be entered in full, in the following manner, and as shown in the specimen schedule:
Jones, William.

" Mary.

The family name being first given, and then the Christian name.

Column 8. The sex is inscribed in this column by inserting the letter M for masculine, and F for feminine.

Column 9. The filling of this column needs explanation, only in the case of infants under one year; when the record will be made thus: under one month o, thence in fractions 1/12, 2/12, 3/12 up to 11/12, as in specimen schedule.

Column 10. Infants born within the twelve months elapsed from the 4th of April, 1880, to the 4th of April, 1881, and still alive, whose names are entered in the seventh column of this schedule, must be recorded in this column. The entry is made by inserting the month of birth as before directed herein, and shown in specimen schedule.

Column 11 explains itself; and the entry must be made by writing such information as "England," "France," "Germany," "O.," "N.S.," as the case may be.

Column 12. In writing down the religion, the enumerator must be very careful to enter the information given by the person questioned, with precision; and to be sure that the denomination is well defined, especially when making use of abbreviations, such, for instance, as are shown in the specimen schedule.

In thus recording the religious denominations, it will, in many cases, be necessary to make use of abbreviations to save space; but in doing so the principal or key word should be sufficiently written, as:--

  • C. Presb. for Canada Presbyterian Church.
  • R. Presb. " Reformed Presbyterian.
  • W. Meth " Wesleyan Methodist.
  • Meth. E. " Independent Methodist Episcopal.
  • F.W.C. Bapt. " Free-Will Christian Baptist.

And so on for other denominations which may be designated by a title too long to
be recorded, in full.

Column 13. Origin is to be scrupulously entered, as given by the person questioned; in the manner shown in the specimen schedule, by the words English, Irish, Scotch, African, Indian, German, French, and so forth.

Column 14. The profession, trade, or occupation, must be entered in full, as given. When two of these are united in one person, both may, or ;may not be given; the point being decided by the importance attached to the fact by the person himself. When sons follow the professions or occupations of their fathers, and are associated with them, the same description is to be inserted. For instance, a farmer's son, working on his father's farm, is a farmer; a carpenter's son, in the same way, a carpenter; and so other young men, when studying professions, are to be inscribed as Medical Student, Law Student and when apprenticed to trades, are to be entered in a similar way. Young men at colleges, but not school children, are to be entered as students.

In the case of women, unless they have a definite occupation besides their share in the work of the family or household, the column is to be filled with the sign -; as also in the case of children. If they have a special occupation, such as seamstress, clerk, factory hand, then it should be entered accordingly.

Column 15. The information is to be recorded by using the letter M for married; W for widow; and the sign - for all others, including children.

Column 16, 17, 18 and 19 are sufficiently explained by their headings, and the entries therein are to be made by the sign 1.

The heading "unsound mind" is intended to include all those unfortunates who are plainly deprived of reason. As many persons entertain prejudise on that account, the enumerator, if he is acquainted with the fact beforehand, must approach it with great delicacy, taking care, however, not to omit the entry of any such case. No attempt is made to distinguish between the various maladies affecting the intellect; as experience proves that the result of such enquiries made under such circumstances is perfectly worthless.

Column 20. In this column is to be entered any remark which may be found necessary; but, in general, enumerators should not have resort to explanations, unless in special cases. This column is also to receive the date of each day's operation, as hereinbefore explained, by writing the same on the same line as the last name inscribed.