Documents & Records
1891 Census of Canada
The 1891 census was held on April 6, 1891. Important additions to the information collected in the 1881 census included the relationship between individuals in a household and the birthplace of each person's parents.
Personal information about each enumerated individual was recorded under the following column headings in the 1891 federal census returns:
- Married or Widowed
- Relation to Head of Family
- Country or Province of Birth
- French Canadians
- Place of Birth of Father
- Place of Birth of Mother
- Profession, Occupation or Trade
The enumeration of the Chinese population in the City of Victoria - the largest Chinatown in Canada - was very inadequate. All people of Chinese origin were simply recorded "Chinaman". Fortunately, however, a higher standard was applied elsewhere in B.C.
Finding the Records
At the Vancouver Public Library
A full name index for the Census of Canada, 1891 is available on the Ancestry Library Edition electronic database. Links to digitized images of original records are provided. Free access to Ancestry Library Edition is available at any location of the Vancouver Public Library. Remote access from home is not available.
The Vancouver Public Library collection includes microfilm copies of all 1891 Canadian census records. The census microfilm collection is located in Fine Arts and History on Level 6.
1891 British Columbia census records are on microfilm reels T-6290 and T-6291.
On the microfilm reels, records are arranged by census district and subdistrict. In 1891 B.C. was divided into five districts and forty-nine sub-districts. The districts had the same names as those used in the 1881 census:
- 1 - Cariboo
- 2 - New Westminster
- 3 - Vancouver
- 4 - Victoria
- 5 - Yale
As in the 1881 census, the Vancouver District encompassed large parts of Vancouver Island, although the New Westminster District no longer included any portion of the Island.
A searchable Catalogue of Census Returns on Microfilm 1666-1901 (Library and Archives Canada) may be useful in identifying the subdistrict in which a particular city or town was located and finding it on the microfilms.
For B.C., the only printed index available corresponds to the City of Victoria, and is available at the Vancouver Public Library:
1891 Canadian Census, Victoria, British Columbia
Sager, Eric and Peter Baskerville, eds.
Ref. 929.3711 V64s
However, as noted previously the Victoria enumerators did not record the names of Chinese individuals, but identified each person simply as "Chinaman", transcribed in this printed index as "Chinese". Therefore, it is of limited genealogical value for Chinese-Canadian research.
A guide to locating people of Chinese origin in the 1891 Canadian census microfilms is being compiled to assist genealogists and other researchers. It is now available for B.C.'s Cariboo District (complete) and New Westminister District (partial). The Territories have also been reviewed. See Chinese Communities in the 1891 Census.
In addition to Ancestry Library Edition (see above), a large amount of free 1891 Canadian census information is available online. Individuals of Chinese origin have been identified in the following databases:
Census of Canada, 1891 (Library and Archives Canada)
This is a free fully indexed electronic transcription of 1891 census information with links to corresponding digital images. The search interface requires the entry of a first and/or last name.
- Canada Census, 1891
Free comprehensive online index to records of the 1891 Canadian census.
The following 1891 census databases are limited to specific parts of B.C.:
Living Landscapes (Royal BC Museum)
Provides access to indexed electronic 1891 census information for the Yale District, which encompassed a large portion of the southern Interior of B.C. The database includes records of 13,497 individuals, of whom 1407 reported China as their birthplace.
Vancouver Island 1891 Census (Malaspina University-College and the University of Victoria)
Provides a searchable indexed transcription of the 1891 Vancouver Island census. Vancouver Island comprised the Victoria census district, and part of the Vancouver District. There are 3193 records for individuals of Chinese origin.