Prairie Provinces Census, 1870-1926

Upon joining Confederation, a separate census for Manitoba was taken in 1870. In 1906, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan started taking their own censuses. They took a census of population and agriculture to track the growth in the West. This happened every 10 years, alternating years with the national censuses. These records contain detailed information about individuals and their families, such as:

  • marital status
  • occupation
  • residence
  • gender
  • ethnicity

The specific questions asked on the census varied from year to year. The completeness of the records varies, so some information might be missing.

This page provides help for researchers working with these census records.

On this page

Before you start

Gather information such as:

  • name(s)
  • approximate year of birth
  • country of birth
  • approximate year of arrival
  • place of residence in Canada

Places to look

LAC holds the following census records from the Prairie Provinces:

Census year and area Provinces and territories included Type of census Statistical summaries Instructions to enumerators Districts and sub-districts
Census of Manitoba, 1870 MB Nominal Census of Canada, 1870-71 = Recensement du Canada, 1870-71, volume IV. Return: instructions to the Honorable A. Archibald 1870 Districts and sub-districts
Census of the Northwest Provinces, 1906 AB, MB, SK Nominal Census of Population and Agriculture of the Northwest Provinces: Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, 1906 Issue of Proclamation for taking the Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta on 1906/06/24 1906 Districts and sub-districts
Census of the Prairie Provinces, 1916 AB, MB, SK Nominal Population and Agriculture: Manitoba, Saskatchewan Instructions to Commissioners and Enumerators 1916 Districts and sub-districts
Census of the Prairie Provinces, 1926 AB, MB, SK Nominal Census of Prairie Provinces, 1926: population and agriculture, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta. Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, 1926: Instructions to Commissioners and Enumerators 1926 Districts and sub-districts

Census records can be found in the Statistics Canada fonds, formerly known as RG31.

Schedules

Prairie Provinces censuses generally follow the same pattern. They include similar types of questionnaires known as schedules from year-to-year, such as:

  • population (names)
  • livestock
  • agriculture

Only the original records for Schedule 1, Population were preserved.

Questions

Most censuses contain the following information:

  • location
  • sex
  • number of families
  • name of the father
  • names
  • ethnic origin
  • birthplace
  • marital status
  • age
  • nationality
  • religion

Census years

Find out more about specific censuses below.

Census of 1870, Manitoba

Upon joining Confederation, a separate census for Manitoba was taken in 1870.

The newly-created province of Manitoba was enumerated shortly after joining Confederation. The census officially began on October 27, 1870, but information was collected based on residence as of July 16, 1870. This Census is sometimes called the Archibald Census.

The 1871 federal census does not include Manitoba. When researching between 1871 to 1881, use the Census of Manitoba 1870.

There was only one schedule for this census, and it had 20 questions.

If you want to look at multiple pages, the images are on microfilm C-2170.

The census is also indexed in these books:

Census of the Northwest Provinces, 1906

The first Prairie Province Census was in 1906. It counted people living in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. It began on June 24, 1906 and had 18 questions in the Population and Livestock Schedule. This is the only schedule that has been preserved.

The 1906 Census contains a new question about the post office address for the head of the household. This Schedule also collected information about livestock. You can find out how many horses, cows, sheep, and pigs were on each farm.

Some pages were completely dark and illegible, so they were not digitized.

Census of the Prairie Provinces, 1916

The second of the Prairie Province Censuses began on June 1, 1916. Only the Population Schedule has survived and had 26 questions.

In addition to standard questions, this census asked questions about:

  • military service
  • year of immigration and naturalization
  • languages spoken other than English or French

It also has extra information about occupations.

Census of the Prairie Provinces, 1926

The third of the Prairie Province Censuses began on June 1, 1926. Only Schedule 1, Population has been preserved, and it had 25 questions. It was the first Prairie Province Census to ask about time spent at school. It did not include questions about occupation or religion.

Within each District, each Sub-district is identified by unique number. Each one also has a Sub-district Name and/or a Sub-district Description. The descriptions are usually for rural areas and cities. Examples:

  • In District 27, the name of Sub-district 51 is Keeler Village. There is no description.
  • In District 45, Sub-district 68 does not have a Sub-district Name. It only has a Sub-district Description: Township 46 in ranges 16, 17 and 18, west of the fourth meridian

Search tips

  • On some pages, part or all of the name column is missing because the left-hand margin of the page had been cut off. Since that information was missing from the microfilm, it is also missing in the digitized images. The originals no longer exist.
    • Those pages are indexed in the database, but the information is incomplete. For example, the database entry might give age, place of birth, etc., but no name or only a partial name.
  • The enumerator's instructions are often helpful for interpreting the information collected on the census returns themselves.
  • For rural locations, you will often see numbers. These are sections, townships, ranges and meridians.
  • For help with definitions, see the list of terminology and abbreviations.
  • For advanced search tips and techniques, such as how to search by place, see our General census guide.

Access the records

Non-digitized records

In 1955, the Dominion Bureau of Statistics was authorized by the Public Records Committee to microfilm and destroy the original records from 1881 onwards. As a result, only microfilm copies census records exist.

The original paper copies that still exist for census before 1881 are fragile and not available for consultation.

Digitized records

All of the Prairie Province census records from 1870 onwards are available on digitized microfilm and can be searched using the Census Search.