The second lecture given at the Beginners Course in Genealogy at the LAC last Saturday was "A History of the Census", an overview of Canadian, British, and American census records given by BIFHSGO member — and recently-retired Library and Archives Canada military expert — Glenn Wright.
He describes looking at census as "a giant first step" in figuring out the relationship between people and places. After BMDs (birth, marriage, and death records), it is the most important piece of evidence that you can look at in starting your family history.
He encourages genealogists to "linger over a census page" for awhile to discover different things about one's ancestors.
Take a look at their neighbours: you can discover who they were, what kind of socio-economic strata they lived in, for example. You can also see their name, and see if they spelled their surname different than yours. Was their religion different than yours is today?
Censuses are not a perfect record, he cautions, but they are a snapshot given of a country on a specific day in history.
Canada is the only country which collects religion information, and in the 1916 Prairie Census, the person was counted as being home even though he was overseas at the time. This is noted in the record by an "O", meaning overseas, or if he was home in Canada, was noted with the letter "C" by his name.
Glenn gave out a page of good census websites. In Canada, the site is the Canadian Genealogy Centre <www.collectionscanada.gc.ca>, Ancestry Canada <www.ancestry.ca>, Automated Genealogy <www.automatedgenealogy.com>, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints <www.familysearch.org>, the All Census Records website <www.allcensusrecords.com>, and numerous provincial websites.
It has been quite a year for Glenn. Besides giving courses and talks on genealogy, he has also provided help to the Ancestors in the Attic Canadian TV program. He is one of the "behind the scenes" guys on the show. Credit: J.M. Lapointe, CD
Tomorrow, I will cover the presentation about Civil Registration with Alison Hare.