UDPATE — Rather than rewrite this blogpost, I’ll just update here by saying you can now access the 1921 Canadian Census for free at Library and Archives Canada. Options to use Ancestry’s collection are still valid, but both the images and index are available at LAC!

One of Ancestry’s popular collections is the 1921 Canadian Census. This is the most recently published census in Canada and this collection is hard to replicate for free outside the Ancestry subscription site. It will probably cost your time and travel to truly have these records without owning an Ancestry subscription.

Fee or Free 1921 Canada Census

Why this is such a great collection, from Ancestry.ca: “The Canadian censuses are a key starting point for Canadians interested in discovering their family story. They provide vital details such as names of spouses, immigration years, occupations and so much more.”

Library and Archives Canada has the original 1921 Canadian Census and in a records deal with Ancestry, gave Ancestry.com exclusive access to host the images and make an index of the records.*

Best free options include:

  • If you are Canadian and have an email account with gmail, yahoo, or hotmail *, you can login in to Ancestry.ca and have access to the images in this collection for free. For advanced searches, including the indexes created by Ancestry, Canadians with free access to the images will be to required to use the subscription access.

  • *updated  Library and Archives Canada (LAC) now hosts the index and images for free at their site.

  • Many Canadian Libraries (not related to LAC) pay for an Ancestry Library edition with access to the 1921 Canada Census (index and images provided by Ancestry.ca). If your library pays for the Ancestry Library edition you probably will have access to this collection on-site at your library. Ancestry Library edition does not permit remote access (off-site access, including home computers).  

  • Many American Libraries have an Ancestry Library edition that may or may not include access to the 1921 Canada Census. You’ll need to check with your own library. Ancestry Library edition does not permit remote access (off-site access, including home computers).  

  • Automated Genealogy, a free site that hosts transcribed Canadian genealogy records, has part of the 1921 Canada Census transcribed for New Brunswick, if that is where you’re lucky enough to claim your heritage.

Why do I want it?

Some of the questions asked in the 1921 census to give you an idea of the information you might glean from this collection:

From Ancestry.ca: “Enumerators recorded answers to the following queries:

  • number of dwelling in order of visitation

  • number of family, household, or institution in order of visitation

  • name of each person whose place of abode was in the household

  • place of habitation

  • tenure and class of home (owned or rented, rent paid, class of house, house occupied by family)

  • sex

  • relationship of person enumerated to the head of household

  • marital status (single, married, widowed, divorced, or legally separated)

  • age at last birthday

  • country or place of birth (if Canada, specify province or territory)

  • country or place of birth for person’s father and mother

  • year of immigration to Canada, if an immigrant

  • year of naturalization, if formerly an alien

  • racial or tribal origin

  • nationality (country to which person owes allegiance)

  • can speak English

  • can speak French

  • religion

  • can read and write

  • months at school since September 1, 1920

  • chief occupation or trade

  • employment other than chief occupation or trade, if any

  • employer, employee, worker, or working on own account

  • principal product, where employed (e.g., ‘in drug store’, ‘on farm’, etc.), or nature of work

  • total earnings in past 12 months

  • currently out of work

  • number of weeks unemployed in past 12 months

  • number of weeks unemployed in past 12 months because of illness”

* Special thanks to members of the Ontario and Upper Canada Genealogy Facebook group for helping me research this information, especially Deborah Crawford for locating the archived information! Don’t forget to join Facebook groups for areas you’re researching-they can be an invaluable resource.

Best in your research, whether it’s fee or free!

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