Counting Heads around the World: The Genealogy of International Census Databases

By Mattison, David | Searcher, January 2003 | Go to article overview

Counting Heads around the World: The Genealogy of International Census Databases


Mattison, David, Searcher


Part II, Canada

It may surprise many Americans to learn that Canada is home to both the oldest European archeological remains in the New World and the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement. Unearthed in the 1960s, the Viking camp at L'Anse aux Meadows (Meadow Cove), Epaves Bay, Newfoundland, dates back to the 11th century AD and confirmed the existence of Vinland in the Norse sagas. Following upon the heels of Italian-born English maritimer John Cabot, who reconnected Europe to Newfoundland in 1497, the French explorer Jacques Cartier and the first representative of French government in Canada, Jean Francois de la Roque, Sieur de Roberval, undertook the first colony in 1541; it ended in failure in 1543. This was nearly 50 years before Sir Walter Raleigh's own disaster at Roanoke, Virginia.

In 1608, under Samuel de Champlain, the French were finally successful in establishing a permanent foothold where Quebec City is today, making it the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in North America. This was a year after Jamestown, Virginia, was founded (it failed in 1624), and 2 years before another English colony in Newfoundland (it too collapsed). The colony of New France, as Quebec was originally known, produced the first Canadian population count of European settlers in 1666. Many English colonies and settlements also enumerated their own populations prior to the first U.S. national census in 1790. Ironically, the British, in burning the White House in 1814, were responsible for the destruction of parts of the 1790 census. As there has been population movement between Canada and the U.S. from the 1600s right up to today, genealogists find Canadian sources vital in their quest for family roots. Similarly, official Canadian statistics provide an alternate view of important social, politi cal, and economic issues affecting both nations.

General Guides to the Census and Population Statistics

Many Web sites provide guides to genealogical and demographic resources that include Canadian content, several of which originate outside Canada. Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet [http://www.cyndislist.com], described in part 1 of my article in the June 2002 issue of Searcher, is considered the most comprehensive source assembled by one individual and not owned by a company. One of the oldest Internet genealogical directories is Stephen A. Wood's Genealogy Home Page [http://www.genhomepage.com/]. Wood also developed and maintains GenealogyPortal.com [http://www.genealogyportal.com/] with Matthew Helm. This site has search engines for various categories of genealogical records, including the census.

Of the few national genealogical Web site guides created by Canadians in Canada, among the best and most current is Jessica Veinot's Canadian Genealogy and History [http://www.islandnet.com/~jveinot/cghl/cghl.html]. There are two main sections for researchers to navigate: The top half of the start page covers national and provincial/territorial resources, while the bottom half has broad topic categories, including popular types of research sources, such as census schedules and cemeteries. The Searchable category offers convenient access to online databases of various kinds, including the census, that, as a minimum, contain a person's name and some additional piece of personal information such as an address, date of birth, marriage, or death. Mirroring the site's overall structure, this page is organized geographically and then by category. All of the census databases in the Searchable list are described in my article. The Census page contains links to the same searchable databases along with transcription pro jects and other sources describing census data. Some of the searchable census databases on this page do not appear on the Searchable page. Veinot's site also includes a search engine and a new listings page for items added within the past 14 days.

Bob's Your Uncle, eh! …

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