Vancouver Island 1881 Census

Summary of Census Enumerators' Instructions, 1881

Nanaimo VI British Columbia, Saturday, April 2, 1881

The Census

In view of the approaching of the census throughout the Dominion, a glance at the extent and nature of the work, with the mode of carrying it out, will be found interesting. The particulars as they are given have been gleaned from the list of instructions and schedule of subjects, which are made out for the guidance of the Commissioners and Enumerators, respectively. The instructions are minute and relate to every subject in such a manner that it is next to impossible that mistakes can be made.

All persons will be registered in the Province and locality in which their home and family reside, whether they may be absent, such as fishermen, or lumbermen, or those who are travelling abroad. The names of such persons temporarily absent will be taken as being present. Therefore, names of seamen at sea, college students and children at schools, sick in hospitals, charitable or penal institutions, are to be taken as if they were at home. And an enumerator finding any person whose home or dwelling is in any other will not make any entry of that name, as it will be taken in the Province where his home is.

Servants come under the three categories following:

  1. Those having, or belonging to, families or homes of their own in the Dominion are to be taken with their own families.
  2. Those not having homes as above are to be taken with the families with whom they are living.
  3. Those in settled employment and resident with any family are to be taken as not having a home or their own.

Persons having no family abode, and no fixed domicile, will be taken wherever they are found, whether on board ships, in schools, in shanties, private houses, or elsewhere. Orphans in public institutions, and persons in asylums, and prisoners without family abode, or sentenced for life, will be taken where they happen to be.

A family, as understood for the purpose of the census, may consist of one person living alone or any number of persons living together under one roof, and having their food provided together.

The census returns of Population and Property are to consist of facts as they exist on the 4th day of April, 1881. Returns, which are to embrace a yearly period, such as the number of births and deaths, the enumeration of products, etc., are to be counted for the twelve months immediately preceding the 4th of April. Therefore, any person who was alive on the 4th of April, 1881, although he may have died between that date and the date of the enumerator’s visit, is to be recorded as if living; and for the same reason infants who may have been born after the 4th of April, 1881, are not to be recorded, whether dead or alive.

The enumerator will himself write the answers given to the questions arising out of the headings in the most scrupulous manner. The information must be the definite answer of the person to whom the question is to be put; and the enumerator is never to take upon himself to insert anything which is not stated or distinctly acknowledged by the person giving the information. But an enumerator may assist the person giving the information so far as to point out an apparent error, or indicate a fact omitted. In every case he must read over the facts he has taken to the person from whom he has obtained them, for checking the correctness of his entries.

In case or refusal of any person to answer questions put, which are necessary to obtain information required for filing the schedules, or of the enumerator receiving any information which is apparently untrue, it is the duty of [of the enumerator] to warn the person against the consequences of such criminal course; and if it is persisted in, it is his duty then to bring the offender to justice, as provided by the Act.

The enumerator must endeavor, taking for his guide the spirit of the law:

  1. Not to omit anything of importance.
  2. Not to record the same thing twice.
  3. Not to exxagerate anything.
  4. Not to underrate anything.

The intercourse of the enumerators with the public is required to be marked with discretion and forbearance. Persons are to be assumed that nothing taken down can by possibility injure or affect their standing or business; as the enumerator is sworn not to make known any circumstances whatever to any person, except to sworn officers of the Department, who are also sworn to secrecy. The commissioners and enumerators are forbidden to give any synopsis of the result of the census, or any part thereof, to anyone. The result will be given by the Department at the earliest possible period.

The enumerator must himself, in every case, go to every dwelling or industrial establishment in each district or division at which enquiry is to be made.

The information sought for in this census relates solely (with the exception of the returns of population and deaths) to the amount of property held at the time of taking the census, and to the total amount of products of the last 12 months before such taking. For example, a farmer reports having grown 500 bushels of wheat, of which he has consumed 100 bushels, sold 200 bushels and has still on hand 200 bushels. The whole 500 bushels must be set down in the census, because the farmer appears simply as a producer. On the other hand, the storekeeper or merchant who has purchased the wheat has nothing to enter in the census for this. So with a manufacturer who has manufactured 10,000 yards of cloth during the last 12 months. He is to enter the whole 10,000 yards, no matter what portion he has sold, or what he still has in stock.

The instructions to the enumerators are very explicit throughout the part of the work which is to be performed by them, to be careful in every matter that us to be entered to avoid mistakes, to be respectful to their bearing, and to ensure correct information on the points they have under enquiry.


There are eight schedules, which are as follows:

  1. Nominal return of the living.
  2. Return of deaths.
  3. Real estate, public institutions, and industrial establishments.
  4. Occupied lands, field products, plants, fruits, and other products.
  5. Live stock, animal products, home-made fabrics, and furs.
  6. Products of the forest.
  7. Shipping and fisheries.
  8. Mineral products.

Every person will be registered by name, [and] by family, taken from house to house. There is a column for vessels, with persons on board; one for temporary buildings, one for houses in construction or uninhabited. In entering a the religion, the enumerator must be careful to enter the information given by the person questioned. The profession, trade, or occupation must be entered in fall, as given.

The registry of deaths is required to be made with extreme care and attention. The causes of death are to be ascertained as nearly as possible without losing time.

Real estate, public institutions, and industrial establishments will include the total number of acres of land in the Dominion; and all the intitutions of a religious, scholastic, charitable, penal character; and an industrial establishment is to be known as any place where manufacturing, altering, making up, or changing from one shape into another materials for sale, use or consumption is carried on.

The schedule for occupied lands, field products, etc., will refer to lands in actual occupation.

Schedule No. 5, relating to livestock, animal products, etc., does not require to be further mentioned.

The products of the forest are to be considered as those articles being in the state in which they are got out simply, and not confounded with returns from saw mills. The census standard for registering logs is made equal to 100 superficial feet of sawed lumber; in other words, one log will be counted for every 100 feet of lumber, which may be got from a given quantity of legs.

Shipping and fisheries will set out the number of vessel owners, the tonnage, number of vessels, number of fishermen, and the quantities of fish caught.

Mineral products will relate exclusively to the extraction of mineral prducts, and do not in any way refer to the quantity manufactured into the article of use or consumption.

Source: Nanaimo Free Press (2 April 1881], p.1