By Julia McIntosh
For those of you wanting to learn more about searching the Census of Canada, this blog will give you some helpful tips and techniques to use in your own research.
In my work at the reference desk, I received a question about the population data for Royalton, New Brunswick, specifically the number of males between the two World Wars, as the query related to recruitment. “A piece of cake,” I thought, “How difficult can it be?” As a librarian, I tend to head to the first appropriate published document. To my surprise, Royalton was too small to have been mentioned in any of the standard print sources, which focus on larger towns and cities rather than on small rural hamlets or unincorporated villages. It was time to rethink my search strategy.
Two censuses took place between the wars: 1921 and 1931. The former was preferred because it was already digitized and my client would be able to access the documents online (see the 1921 Census).
The first issue was to find the exact location of Royalton, according to the census districts and sub-districts. For this, I had to find a contemporary map and compare it with the 1921 Census Districts and Sub-districts: New Brunswick. I also had to determine in which county and parish Royalton was situated and then determine the correct sub-district by the written description provided. Sadly, Internet map sites tend not to provide the county detail required, nor do they provide easy access to maps of the era. However, the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick did just that. Their website told me that Royalton was “Located E of the New Brunswick and Maine border, 3.16 km SW of Knoxford: Wicklow Parish, Carleton County.”
Back to the census districts and sub-districts, I searched for Carleton, assuming that the district would be related to the county name. As we all know, assumptions can be problematic! The district was not under “C,” but “V”—District 48 – Victoria and Carleton. Who knew?
My trials and tribulations were not over, however. Complicating things, there were three sub-districts in Wicklow Parish, with nary a mention of Royalton:
- Sub-district 11 Wicklow (Parish)
“For all that portion of the Parish of Wicklow, north and east of the following described line: Beginning at the River Saint John at the Hugh Tweedie farm; thence west along the road known as the ‘Carr Road’ to the Greenfield Road, thence north along said Greenfield Road to the Summerfield Road; thence west along said Summerfield Road to the Knoxford Road, and thence northerly along said Knoxford Road and a prolongation of the same northerly to the line between Carleton and Victoria and to include all those who border on said roads.
- Sub-district 12 Wicklow (Parish)
“For all that part of the Parish of Wicklow, south and east of the following line, beginning at the River Saint John at Hugh Tweedie’s farm, thence west along the road known as the ‘Carr Road’to the Greenfield Road, south along said Greenfield Road to the south line of the Parish of Wicklow, and to include those bordering on said Greenfield Road, south of said ‘Carr Road.’”
- Sub-district 13 Wicklow (Parish)
“Beginning at a point where the Knoxford Road crosses the county line between Carleton and Victoria, thence running west along said county line until it reaches the American boundary line, thence south along said boundary line until it reaches the Parish of Wilmot, thence east along said Parish line until it reaches the Greenfield Road, thence north along the Greenfield Road until it reaches the Summerfield Road, leading from Summerfield to Knoxford Road, thence following the Summerfield Road west, until it reaches the Knoxford Road; thence north along the Knoxford Road to place of beginning.”
What map to use? As time was of the essence, I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for a 1921 Census map to be called up for me, so I checked our digitized map collection. The most current available was a Population map from the 1891 Census. At that time, Royalton was found in the Electoral District of Carleton. Hoping that not much had changed in 30 years, I compared the map with the written descriptions and deduced that Royalton was in Sub-district 13 – Wicklow (Parish). Worried that a map from 1895 might be too old, a subsequent check of the Electoral Atlas of the Dominion of Canada, 1915 confirmed the Electoral District of Victoria and Carleton, but surprisingly, Royalton was missing. At least the county hadn’t changed its boundaries in the intervening years!
The second issue, the identification of those enumerated as living in the village of Royalton, should have been straightforward, but it quickly became evident that this also was going to be complicated. I went to the printed Volume I – Population of the Sixth Census of Canada, 1921, and found Table 8 – Population by Districts and Sub-districts. Under Victoria and Carleton, then Carleton County, I found Wicklow – population 1,689. However, there was no entry for Royalton under the heading Towns, nor was there a breakdown by sex. However, Table 16 – Population…classified by sex gave me the breakdown for Wicklow – 900 males and 789 females. This was definitely getting closer, but remember, Wicklow Parish has three sub-districts, of which no. 13 includes Royalton. I needed to get as close to the census numbers for the village as possible.
My only option at this point was to consult the raw data collected for the census, which meant going to the digitized version of the 1921 Census on our website. A search by keywords Royalton and Province: New Brunswick gave zero results. However, Wicklow and Province: New Brunswick gave 1,600, which more or less tallied with the totals I had already found for the parish. The prospect of going through all those entries was daunting, to say the least.
Luckily, after opening a few pages and skipping around the document, I found a Title page for the enumerations of District 48, Sub-district 13, Wicklow Parish, pages 1-14. Success!
I still had the dilemma of the breakdown by sex, however. Even though the numbers would be smaller than for all of Wicklow Parish, it would still involve a fair amount of counting. Fortunately, the enumerator had tallied the numbers on the last page of the section for Sub-district 13, Wicklow:
Males – 340; Females – 316
Still hoping for the specific numbers for Royalton, I saw that column 5 on the form was titled “Municipality.” So, with happy expectations, I set out to do the smaller count.
Remember those trials and tribulations that dogged me previously? They hadn’t disappeared in my search for the specific Royalton population count. Royalton first appears on page 3, line 39 for Sub-district 13. The enumerator starts by indicating Royalton by name in the municipality column, but then crosses these entries out and replaces the name with Carleton, which, as we all know, is the county! Subsequently, and consistently, the enumerator enters Carleton as the municipality by page 4.
At this point, I conceded that I wasn’t going to find the number of males in Royalton and passed along the information to my client, who may have been able to further tease apart the specific information by family name.
For more information on searching the 1921 Census, have a look at the section entitled Issues about this census and the database. There are some very helpful tips about navigating from image to image.
Happy searching to all who may be on a quest to find their own Royalton!
Julia McIntosh is a Reference Librarian in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.
I found your posting really interesting. In my capacity as volunteer archivist and researcher for Gravenhurst Archives I receive constant queries that involve — at least to some extent — the searching of Census documents. I use the Census document posted on Ancestry.ca. Unfortunately the transcription of the originals is done so poorly so often that I then have to go straight to the original Census documents to find any accuracy at all. But I constantly warn people that Census takers were only human. They had their own foibles and biases to say nothing of hand writing issues. For example I found working in Census records where the enumerator was working through a small area of folks from a particular ethnic background (“tribal group”) could be extremely messy as the enumerator seems to have made certain assumptions about husbands and wives both coming from the same background, where, in this case, nothing could be further from the truth. Caveat researcher! You may have to spend some time going back to immigration records or even to the archives of the country from which the person came to tease out the truth!
Pingback: This week’s crème de la crème — April 28, 2018 | Genealogy à la carte
I know this post is 3 years old but just noticed it. Quite interesting. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the census records for the past 6 years doing my family genealogy (many in just one county – Lunenburg, Nova Scotia) and one of my pet peeves is that until 1901 there was no indication of the actual community where someone lived, just the census district. (US reports did have it, often the actual street and house number so I can see the house if it still exists where they lived!) In 1901 you have the index pages at the beginning of each section but later it’s on the actual page. I’ve generally had good luck finding my relatives however in some cases I have to bite the bullet when there was nothing in the search and start at the first page of the district and go page by page until I find the family who are more often than not in there somewhere but sometimes the handwriting was poor so the indexing was way off. Understandable as transcribers were often unfamiliar with local names that seem so simple to us. Too bad each page stands on it’s own and not able to just flip the pages (although I quickly found the trick is to just increase the last digit of the file name by one to get the next page.) No one in those early days would have thought that in later years people would be using census reports for genealogical research!