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1881 Census: Nominal Search Help

This form permits you to specify the characteristics of individuals that you are looking for in the 1881 Census of Canada.

Once you have made all of your desired selections, click on the Query button at the top of the form. You may also use the keyboard short-cuts Ctrl-S or Alt-Q to perform a query.

The Coverage button performs a search of the database to report on which Districts and Sub-Districts are included in the current database and the progress of the transcription effort for each area. You may also use the keyboard short-cut Alt-C to invoke this function.


The Census of 1881 covered the Dominion of Canada, which was divided into seven provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia, as well as the North-West Territories. If you wish to limit the search to a specific province the choice is made using the selection list.

At present the only data entered is for part of Ontario.


The country was divided into Census Districts which corresponded approximately to electoral districts or ridings. Although some of these Districts have the same name as Counties, they do not generally have the same boundaries as the Counties with the same name.

Initially this selection list includes all Districts in the country. If a Province is selected then the District selection list is populated with an alphabetical list of the census Districts in that Province.


The Count field permits specifying how many records are to be displayed at at a time. The default is 20 records.


Each census District, generally the same as a County, was divided into census Sub-Districts, each conforming generally to a City Ward, Town, or Township. The selection list of sub-districts is populated when you select a District.


Larger census sub-districts were further divided into enumeration divisions or wards to try and balance out the workload for the enumerators. The selection list of divisions is populated when you select a sub-district.


Each page of the population census contained room for 50 individuals. It is anticipated that the user will choose to search an individual page only for the situation when the entire page, all 50 individuals, are the desired target set. Therefore selecting a specific page within a specific enumeration division ignores the Count field so that all rows of the page are displayed and changes the default sort order to display the records in the order they appear in the original.

Given Names

This field is used to specify text which is matched against the given names of individuals in the database. This search is done as a case-insensitive pattern match, not a simple comparison.

The search value is split into multiple given names and each is used to search for a match on the first two characters of each given name of the individuals in the database. For example requesting "John William" will match anyone who has either "John" or "William" as a given name, but it will also match against "Joseph", "Jonathan", and "Wilbur".


This field is used to specify text to look for in the surname. If the value contains only letters and spaces then only names that match very closely are found using the default pattern search defined in the Surnames table if present, otherwise for an exact match ignoring case. However if there are certain special pattern matching characters this is used for a "regular expression" pattern match. For example to match surnames starting with "McL..." and ending with ".n", such as "McLean", "McLain", "McLennan", or "McLellan" you could specify "^McL.*n$".

The meaning of this field changes if the Soundex option is selected.


The Soundex code has been used for decades to attempt to match names that sound similar. For example it is used by police forces to perform a rough match for the names of drivers. It is a problematic tool, as it is based upon the phonetics of common English surnames and does not do as well with non-English surnames. If you select this option along with a complete surname, not a pattern match, in the Surname field, then the search is made for surnames that "sound like" the given surname. For example specifying Soundex together with "McLean" will match all of the surnames in the pattern match example under "Surname", but many other names as well, such "McCallum", "McAllan", "McClain", and "McWilliams".


Select this option if you only want to look for male or female individuals.

Marital Status

Select this option if you wish to restrict the search based upon the marital status of the individuals.


This option is used to search for individuals based upon their listed occupations. This is again a pattern match. For example searching for "Labo[u]{0,1}rer" will match any occupation that contains either "Laborer" or "Labourer", including "Farm Labourer" and "R'y Laborer".

Birth Place

This option is used to search for individuals based upon where they were born. This is a pattern match. For example searching for "Canada" will also match "Canada East", "Canada West", "Lower Canada", and "Upper Canada".


This option is used to search for individuals based upon their religious affiliation. This is a pattern match. For example searching for "Meth" will match any religion containing that string, including "Wesleyan Methodist", "C. Meth.", "New Connexion Methodist", and "Methodist Episcopal".

Birth Year & Range

The Birth Year and Range fields are used to search for individuals based upon their approximate birth year calculated from their age at the time of the census in spring 1871.

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