Moynahan Surnames

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Statistics Canada - Speaker Series - Historical Censuses

Today, I attended an afternoon Statistics Canada Speakers Series entitled, "A glimpse into the past: Using historical censuses to research Canadian families"

From the Statistics Canada website:

"Statistics Canada plays a vital role in providing consistent data that tell the ongoing story of our country and our families. Beginning in 1666 when Jean Talon, the first Intendant of New France, conducted the first census, to more than three centuries later, the Census Program continues to be a valuable source of information for historians and genealogists."

Guest Speaker: Professor Lisa Dillon

The event was well attended by a number of representatives from various government departments as well as academics, and genealogists.

The guest speaker was Lisa Dillon who is the Professor of Demography from the Université de Montréal.

The Panel

Lisa's presentation was followed by a panel discussion and then a question and answer session .

Here are some of the highlights that I noted:
  • During Professor Lisa Dillon's presentation, we were made aware of  a wide variety of research projects that used census data:
    • There are many SPECIAL PROJECTS that use census data: One project looked how families cared for aging parents during the late Victorian period and compared the data from Canada's 1871 census with the 1880 U.S. census.
    • The HISTORIC CENSUS DATA HAS SHORTCOMINGS: Academics have criticized the earlier  census for having no coherent structure
    • LINKAGES ENRICH OUR UNDERSTANDINGS: Parish records/census: the age calculations in the 1666, 1667 and 1681 censuses of Quebec have been compared to ages as calculated from baptismal records 
    • DATA COLLABORATIONS enable research: Famiy Search and Universities have collaborated by sharing materials (i.e. 1852 Census)
    • EARLY 20TH CENTURY CENSUSES show families in transition: A special project about the residential autonomy of never-married persons in urban Canada 1921-1951 as influenced by multiple variables
    • Partners mentioned in the presentation: Statistics Canada, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Family Search (Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints), PRDH Programme De Recherche , Canada Foundation For Innovation and the Minnesota Population Center
  • During the panel discussions I noted:
    • Glenn Wright: The census records are a fundamental resource for genealogists. We can learn so much about ancestors based on questions asked at the door: religion; ethnic origin; could our ancestors read and/or write; etc, etc
      • One of the upcoming challenges for the census and genealogists will be the definition of "family". On the 1911 Canada census, the divorce question was introduced. There are likely other questions that will need to be added in the future
    • Johanna Smith: (Johanna was the first to acknowledge that this Speaker Series was being held on unceded Algonquin territory - thank you for that Johanna) 
    • Lisa Dillon: Lisa wanted to emphasize the importance of partnerships. Academics never work in isolation.
      •  A good example of a partnership that fascilitated the access to reseources and data is the partnership between BIFHSGO, the Morman Church (Family Search) and Library and Archives Canada collaboration on the 1881 census.
      • Social history always references that families are the foundation for society and there is such diversity within families as a result of a number of variables
      • Lisa invited folks to look at the other rich data that can be found on census returns that is often overlooked. Things like comments from the census takers "old woman lives alone in cabin with 20 goats and won't let us enter" or the  contextual summaries at the end of the census districts where the census taker would note things like the number of windmills etc.
From the Questions and Answer Session at the very end of this Speaker series, I took note of the following:
  • Individual based research requests such as immigration files (that do not even go to the Library and Archives Canada until after 150 years) must be dealt with through the Privacy Act and Access To Information processes
  • 2011 Change in Census Policy occurred during the Harper years. This will create problems for researchers in 92 years and represents a substantial gap in data.
Screenshot: Wikipedia: Census in Canada

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