Part of Archives research collection
GR-0469 consists of microfilm copies of the British Columbia portions of the 1881 Dominion of Canada census. The 1881 census was the first decennial census to include the Province of British Columbia. The census was carried out under the authority of the federal Census Act of 1879 [42 Vic., c.21]. It was administered by the Department of Agriculture and by fourteen Chief Census Officers who were appointed by cabinet. Joseph William McKay (1829-1900), the distinguished explorer, Hudson’s Bay Company officer, legislator, and Indian Agent, was the Chief Census Officer for British Columbia.
For the purposes of enumeration, British Columbia was divided into five census districts:, Cariboo, New Westminster, Vancouver, Victoria and Yale. The province was divided further into twenty six sub districts. Generally speaking, the census districts corresponded to federal electoral districts, while the sub districts corresponded to polling divisions within the districts.
The 1881 census was a de jure survey and 4 April 1881 was chosen as the target date of enumeration. That is, although the process of enumeration extended over many months, enumerators were instructed to record details of the population as they would have been on April 4th.
The census comprised eight schedules pertaining to population, property, agricultural production, manufacturing, fisheries and shipbuilding, etc. Of the schedules, only Schedule 1 (Nominal Return of the Living) survived in manuscript form.
The records contain a wealth of demographic and genealogical information. The Nominal Returns show the names of individuals and record details re: a person's residence, sex, age, place of birth, nationality, religion, occupation, marital status, literacy, and infirmities. Researchers should note that individuals were not listed alphabetically on the census schedules; rather, they were recorded consecutively as they were met by enumerators. Because of this method of enumeration, it is sometimes difficult to locate a particular person or family within a census sub district.
Having identified a particular sub district listed in the finding aid, researchers should search the appropriate reel (B00389 or B00390) for copies of the Nominal Returns for that area. Note: letters identifies sub-districts, and in some instances, sub districts were divided into two or three localities.
Canada. Census Office