Thanks to a collaboration among FamilySearch, Ancestry, and Library and Archives Canada, thousands of pages of the 1931 Canada census are now digitized, text-searchable and free to the public, FamilySearch announced in a blog post Sunday, Jan. 14.
The census was released publicly in June 2023, but had been available only as digital images online and was not text-searchable.
To make the census text-searchable, Library and Archives Canada gave the digitized record images to Ancestry, which used its state-of-the-art handwriting recognition technology to create a searchable index.
FamilySearch then improved the index’s accuracy and completeness “to a level never available before,” according to the blog post, adding that, in decades past, indexing census records was a tedious project requiring many people and years to complete.
“However, new computer technology has vastly hastened the process of reading and sorting data accurately,” the blog post states. “Human review improves that accuracy.”
The 1931 census, which began on June 1, 1931, was the seventh census since the Canadian Confederation formed on July 1, 1867.
What makes the census especially exciting is that it was taken during the Great Depression, “a time of significant immigration and change,” FamilySearch wrote in its blog post.
Stephen Valentine, senior vice president of FamilySearch International, said in the blog post that FamilySearch is honored to work with Library and Archives Canada “to make [the 1931 census] pages easily searchable for those individuals worldwide with Canadian roots [so they can] extend the branches of their family tree and make fun personal and family connections.”
Canada census history
The 1931 Canada census asked the usual questions — name, age, birthplace, marital status and so on — but also gathered some additional information, such as if there was a radio in the household.
There are 40 fields on the 1931 census, five more than the 1921 census.
A countrywide census was taken in Canada every 10 years starting in 1871. Prior to that, censuses were taken for various regions before Canada united into a single country. The Canadian government began taking a census every five years starting in 1971.
Canadian censuses are released 92 years after they are taken and are made public via Library and Archives Canada.
FamilySearch and Library and Archives Canada have collaborated for over 50 years in preserving genealogically significant historical records and making them freely available, according to FamilySearch’s blog post.
FamilySearch has Canadian records from as early as 1621 and from all the country’s territories past and present. To date, FamilySearch has more than 40 million searchable Canadian records.