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October 4, 2012

A Journey Down Memory Lane With Canadian Voters' Lists

Guelph Voters' List and have brought Canadian Voters' Lists from 1935 to 1980 online. These act as a substitute census of sorts and are especially welcome since Canadian census records that are available to the public only go to 1911.

The lists are only available for the years below when there were Federal Elections. They are fully indexed for the years that are starred below, but not indexed for 1979 or 1980

1935* 1940* 1945* 1949* 1953* 1957* 1958* 1962* 1963* 1965* 1968* 1972* 1974* 1979 1980

Here I am living with my mom & aunt!
I had a lot of fun looking up my parents and grandparents and myself! Because I looked for so many people I discovered what a bad job of indexing has been done.

Ancestry used OCR (Optical Character Recognition) in place of transcribers, and so the results are messy. They recognize the issues that OCR causes and ask for viewers' assistance in correcting errors. Here's part of the blurb in the description of the database:
Because this collection uses OCR technology, we encourage you to correct any errors you find in the data by going to the image and editing the name in the correction panel at the bottom of the page.
If you are searching for your family and ancestors in this wonderful database (and you should!) be sure to use wildcards and limit your search terms if you don't get results. Here is an example of the  OCR issues:
 Above we have the typed voters' list for George McGinnis, farmer, in Alma Ontario. Below is the indexed entry for "Gwrgt'i Farmer McGinnis"
If you were looking for "George McGinnis" in the search engine, he won't show in the results. You'd pretty much have to just search on his last name. And since I found my McGinnis maiden name badly recognized in the OCR, I used wildcards to search for M*G*n*s

I found my surname indexed as Moginnis, Mrginnis and so on. There are many errors but don't let that keep you away. I was thrilled to get street names and numbers for my ancestors in Guelph Ontario. I can't wait to go back to Guelph to drive around and actually see where my Grandparents lived in 1935.

Voters' List 1867-1900
There is a companion database of Voters' Lists for Ontario for 1867-1900 but it is odd as it is not supposed to include women since they did not have the right to vote until 1918. But it does.

I have found thousands of women listed. For instance a search under just the first name "Susan" brings up 267 hits, all for women. A search for "Sarah" has over 1,200 results! It's not an error in names. I still haven't figured that discrepancy out! I'm also rather curious as to why Ancestry didn't OCR the last two years 1979 and 1980.

To search these wonderful Voters Lists, see and

1 comment:

CollProf said...

I've been having fun with these lists too and finding lots of addresses I didn't have for ancestors.