Republished December 10, 2013
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 10: Deeper into Census Records
We’re going to start off today by continuing our use of U.S. Federal Census Records. Last episode we located relatives in the 1930 census, and today we’re going to push further back in time to follow the census bread crumb trail.
Then in our second segment we’re going to explore some census enumerations that often go overlooked by family historians with Curt Witcher, the Manager of the nationally-recognized Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Curt is a very well-known genealogy lecturer and he has some great tips for tapping in to more obscure census resources. We’ll talk about nonpopulation schedules for the federal census, census substitutes for missing census data (like the 1890 census) and state censuses that may be available, too.
Updates and Links
As I mentioned in the show notes of the last episode, the 1940 census is now available to researchers. Check out those notes for more information. Here are some more updates and links:
- Learn more about nonpopulation schedules and other census records in Ancestry’s online version of The Source.
- The U.S. Census Bureau has online info on state censuses. Learn even more in Ann S. Lainhart’s book State Census Records (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992). A lot of state censuses are now searchable on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
- A few fragments of the 1890 census remain. These are searchable at Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.
- The Ancestry database substitute for the 1890 census I mentioned in the show is now supplemented by census substitute databases on Ancestry for just about every state for 1890 and other years. Search for them in the Card Catalog with the search term “1890 census.”
- The National Archives has a portal for census records, too (what’s in them and how to find them).
The much-anticipated (but little-publicized) 1921 Canadian census is now online and available for browsing at Ancestry.ca. They anticipate releasing an index later this year.
On June 29, I blogged in detail about the 1921 census. Check out that post for an image from the census, the questions it included and the significance of the 1921 census as it captured a new generation of immigrants to Canada.
When you click on the first link above, you’ll see that Ancestry.ca’s collection of Canadian census data goes back to 1851. Check out my post above to learn about online data back to 1825. It’s getting easier all the time to find your Canadian ancestors online!
Library and Archives Canada, the Canadian national archive, holds original passenger arrival records. You can search a massive index to them on their website for free.
Canadian Passenger Arrival Lists: The Good and Bad News
There’s good news and bad news for those searching for Canadian passenger arrival lists.
The Bad News:
You won’t find a lot of Canadian passenger arrival lists before 1865. There are no comprehensive nominal lists of immigrants arriving prior to 1865 in Canada according to the Library and Archives Canada. Unfortunately, those lists didn’t generally survive.
Those that have can be scattered amongst various French and British collections.
Visit the Passenger Lists page at the Library and Archives Canada here for details lists, years and microfilm numbers.
You will be able to find a lot of records after 1865.
And the news gets even better. These records can easily be found online!
“The passenger lists are the sole surviving official records of the arrival of the majority of people accepted as immigrants in Canada,” says a Library Archives Canada webpage. “The passenger list is a list of immigrants arriving at an official port of entry on a particular ship on a given date.
Information Found in Canadian Passenger Lists
Generally speaking, each manifest provides the following information:
- the name of the ship
- date(s) of departure and arrival in Canada
- professions or occupations
The earlier lists aren’t always so detailed. But in some cases, other lists have information about the travelers’:
- previous travels to Canada
- family members
- and how much they carried in their wallets.
Where to Search for Canadian Passenger Lists 1865-1922
Start your search for free in the Passenger Lists, 1865-1922 collection at the Library and Archives Canada website.
The city of Quebec, the major arrival port for many years, is covered for nearly that entire time span.
If you find it easier to search for these records in genealogy websites (so you can attach them to individuals in your tree), or if you’re specifically looking for passengers whose final destination was the U.S., check out these databases:
Canadian Passenger lists, 1881-1922 at FamilySearch.
The database includes records for Canadian ports:
- Quebec City,
- St. John,
- North Sydney,
- U.S. ports for passengers who reported Canada as their final destination.
Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935 at Ancestry.
Quebec ports are included for these time periods:
- May 1865–Jun 1908,
- Jun 1919–Jul 1921,
- Apr 1925–Nov 1935.
Nearly 100,000 records of travelers to the U.S. via Canada are recorded for the ports of:
- Saint John
- New Brunswick
- Nova Scotia
- British Columbia
- British Columbia
More Great Canada Genealogy Resources
We have several more resources to assist you in your Canadian family history research.
- Click here to learn why Quebec Church Records are a Great Place to Look for Ancestors.