Deconstructing Family and Household in the Canadian Census, 1851-1921

Lisa Dillon, Université de Montréal
Roxana Ivette Arana Ovalle, Université de Montréal
Marilyn A. Gentil, Université de Montréal
Léonie Trudeau-Laurin, Université de Montréal
Simona Bignami, Université de Montréal

The proposed paper will examine the enumeration of families, households and dwellings in the Canadian censuses from 1851 to 1921, with particular attention to how census enumeration practices potentially affect the study of households and family interrelationships using these data. The Canadian censuses began asking relationship to household head in 1891; prior to this, household relationships can be constructed by drawing upon names, sex, age, marital status and position in the household. The 1851 and 1861 households also defined dwelling residents as members and non-members of the family, questions which bring their own complications. Previous work on the enumeration of families and households in the 1851 Canadian census identified uniform enumeration practices with respect to household heads, spouses, children and parents of the head, and more divergent practices with respect to employees and more distantly-related kin. This work identified that the 1851 members and non-members of the family question is indeed useable; is this also the case with 1861? An earlier study of families and households in the 1901 Canadian census determined that the majority of individuals described with the relationship-to-household-head were nuclear family members, but an important minority were described in ambiguous ways or in ways that suggest non-normative household configurations. A further challenge concerns complications in the attribution of household and dwelling numbers, the identification of institutional residents and the use of ditto marks. The proposed conference paper will address these various issues with respect to the new complete-count historical census microdata for Canada from 1851 to 1921.

No extended abstract or paper available