Last week was a big week for genealogists and family historians alike. The Historical Canadian Census 1851-1916 was released. It provides nearly 32 million names and 1.3 million records.
These records can be accessed at www.ancestry.ca/census at www.familysearch.org or at the Canadian Archives. If you currently do not subscribe to Ancestry then this is your day. You can sign up for a 14 day free trial. This gives you 2 weeks of free research but not just to the census records but their entire online database. You will have to provide a credit card for access and if you don't intend on being a long-term subscriber then you must cancel in order to keep your card from being charge for the subscription at the end of your 14 days. However, you can also access these records free of charge at Family Search if that is your online database of choice.
In keeping with this exciting census news, I would like to review exactly what a census record can do for your research. If you are just starting your research then a census record is a great starting point, if you are at a brick wall then access to one of these newly released records can open up further clues.
A census record can reveal family members you may not be aware of. This morning I was able to find a census of my GGGGrandfather. On this 1861 census I learned of a child I was not currently aware of. Census documents can help in establishing ages, occupations, religions, native tongues and ethnicity. You can learn addresses and house types which can open doors in looking for land records. They will also help in establishing migration dates. As families picked-up and moved they could be in one county on one record and by the next census a different county. Census records can reveal parents and birth dates. Elderly parents may appear living with their children on one record and gone the next, helping to narrow a possible death and location of death. Often these records will include an immigration year, which in turn can help narrow your search for passenger lists and immigration records. Census records can also reveal military service.
Also available are agricultural censuses. Many of our ancestors raised crops and livestock for a living. These schedules offer us a glimpse of their farms, the kinds of crops and livestock they raised, giving us a clearer picture of their lives.
So never dismiss a census record. It can be one of the most valuable records you can have in your collection, and once you have a series of them then they truly will begin to paint the picture of your ancestors story.