June 6, 2013

LAC announces New Version of 1891 Canadian Census, Indexed and with Images

LAC announces New Version of 1891 Canadian Census, Indexed and with Images
1891 Census Fanny McGinnis & Daughter Delia
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announced a few days ago that they have scanned and indexed the 1891 Canadian census. It is online and is freely searchable at Library and Archives Canada: 1891 Census

Granted this census has been available online for some time now on Ancestry.com but that requires payment. LAC's is free. And the image quality is outstanding. But what I like best is the detailed explanation of all the markings on a typical 1891 census page.

Here's an example to show you what I mean - I've found all my family in Ontario in the 1891 census years ago. Some I found the old-fashioned way, by scrolling through screen after screen of microfilmed records (unindexed). Some I found on the Ancestry.com website.

But after reading LAC's explanation of columns on the 1891 census page, I realized that for all my experience researching, I'd overlooked a very nice bit of information about each head of household.  On the LAC page, near the bottom is a small tidbit of abbreviations used on the 1891 census. The one I never knew before was this one:
Residential dwellings were described using letters and numbers such as “S2/6” for a stone house, two stories, six rooms or “W ½” for a wooden house, one story, two rooms.
I'd see these obscure markings but had no idea what they meant. I read them in my mind as a letter followed by a fraction (W 1/2 for example) Think of all the cool and interesting extra details I'd missed - namely the kind of house an ancestor lived in (wooden vs stone, the number of stories) and how many rooms were in the home.

My readers probably know me well enough to realize I spent a happy half day looking up 1891 census records for my ancestors again! I found that my 2nd great-grandmother Fanny McGinnis who was living on her own at the age of 60 (which I already knew) lived in a wooden one-storey house with four rooms. Her widowed daughter lived next door with her four young children in a wooden one-storey home with five rooms.  That kind of detail may seem inconsequential but to me it adds more to the shadowy picture I have built in my mind of Fanny and her life. I'm trying to imagine the rooms - how big or small they were and what was in each.

1891 Census Alex McGinnis & Family
My next happy but rather surprising find was when I re-examined my great grandfather Alex McGinnis's 1891 census report. He was Fanny's son and in 1891 was married with four young children. He lived in a wooden home with only 3 rooms! I cannot imagine that. I suppose there was a kitchen, living-room and one bedroom. So where on earth did the children sleep?

I'm having trouble wrapping my head around that. It was around this time that Alex and his wife Harriet separated and now I'm wondering if crowded living conditions and perhaps poverty were a factor in that separation.

You can search the 1891 census online. I plan on looking for more ancestors this afternoon.


7 comments:

Carol said...

Interesting info about the houses! I hope I have luck finding my grandmother in the Manitoba census in this newer.

Thanks for the updates & info you post.

Col Murray said...

Thanks for this! I too had thought it was a fraction, maybe referring to their land division (though it seemed all too frequent for my ancestors to live on the "West half". Now I know they all just had wooden 1 story two room houses. I too will have to go back and adjust my interpretations.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Today found my great-grandmother, grandfather, & his siblings. Now, to find my great-grandfather who seems to be living, but somewhere else. He died later that year, so my hypothesis is he is in a sanatarium. Kids born in England, U.S., & Ontario.

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt said...

Fascinating! Of course I had to go back and check - I am researching the history of my house - and found in 1891 it was wooden (it has stucco all over it now, so we were not sure), two stories, 6 rooms.

The main house, before they added on the enclosed porch and kitchen addition in some unknown year - there are 4 rooms - well, six I guess if you count the bathroom and laundry room. They are very small rooms, so I wasn't sure if they would count?

On the census, next to the family names is another relative though - and next to his name is a B, 1 for one story and looks like a squiggly line - could be a 3 but not compared to the other 3's on the page.

Any ideas on where I can find means for other terms??

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Catherine - yes. If you use the link I gave in my blog post for the 1891 census at LAC you will find a list of all abbreviations and their meanings

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

Col - glad I wasn't the only one!

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt said...

Thanks - I did check there first, but it doesn't explain this. But I did some looking around and it turns out that B means brick - duh! LOL

So he lived in a 1 story brick house, I think the squiggly line and hyphen mean - it was a one room house??