Notes on Enumeration Categories

Schedule 1 (Nominal Return of the Living) of the 1901 Dominion census consisted of thirty-four (34) questions. Enumerators were issued with a manual, explaining the purpose of the questions and showing the correct way of entering answers. According to the Manual, "Schedule 1 is framed with the object of enumerating the population of the country by name. Every person whose habitual home or place of abode is in an enumerator's district... is to be entered on the schedule by name, irrespective of age, sex or condition."

The Manual used the term "dwelling house" to indicate a place of residence. "Any structure that provides shelter for a human being is a house." Accordingly, family homes and residential hotels, along with barracks, institutions and ships were "dwelling houses" for census purposes.

Here is a list of the questions and a summary of the instructions given to enumerators:

This term applied to traditional nuclear families, consisting of parents and children, and to extended families having other relatives and servants living under one roof. Residential hotels, boarding houses, institutions and vessels were also counted as census families or households. In most cases, a head of household was indicated. Census families were numbered consecutively within each sub-district. Thus, Family No. 2 was in close proximity to Family No. 1, etc.
Family names were entered first, followed by Christian or given names and middle initials.
The heading on the nominal schedule was Sex. "The sex will be denoted by the use of the letter M in the proper column for male and the letter F for female."
This term, used for the first time in 1901, referred to race. People were identified with the initials W, R, B or Y, indicating White (for Caucasians), Red (for North American Indians and Aboriginal people), Black (for persons of African descent) or Yellow (for Chinese and Japanese persons). Persons of mixed race were designated according to their non-white parent. Thus, a person with a white father and black mother was recorded as B (black). Persons of mixed European and Aboriginal lineage were recorded in a separate category [see Race below].
Relation to head of family
The schedule was designed so that one person would be identified as head of household and others would be assigned relative positions, such as wife of head, daughter of head, mother of head, lodger, servant, and so on. The head of household was expected to provide "particulars regarding every person in the family, household or institution" to enumerators.
Marital status
Whether a person was single (S), married (M), widowed (W) or (D) divorced. This was the first census where divorced people were so identified.
Month and date of birth
Infants less than a year old were supposed to be entered as a fraction of 12 - e.g. 2/12 for a two month old baby. Infants less than one month were supposed to be entered as "0." In this database, infants less than a year old are entered as "0" and their age, if it was recorded as a fraction, is displayed in the Comments field.
Year of birth
Age on last birthday was recorded here.
The column was headed Country or Place of birth. "If in Canada, specify province or Territory and add 'r' or 'u' for rural or urban, as the case may be." The Manual did not provide any guidelines for distinguishing between an 'urban' town and a 'rural' village. Presumably, respondents or enumerators made the distinction.
Year of immigration to Canada
Year of naturalization
This category was entitled Racial or Tribal Origin on Schedule 1. Persons identified as "White" were enumerated here according to the birthplace of their father - "as in English, Scotch [sic], Irish, Welsh, French, German, Italian, Scandinavian [sic], etc." Persons of mixed European and Aboriginal heritage were described with the now unsavoury term, "breed." Enumerators were instructed to use initials to describe the parentage of mixed-blood people. The initials e. b. indicated an "English breed" - that is, someone of English and native Indian descent. The initials f. b, s. b and i. b indicated persons of mixed French, Scottish and Irish descent. Persons having parents with some other nationality or race were identified with the initials o. b., meaning "other breed."
Anyone who was born in Canada or who had become a Canadian citizen (irrespective of their race or place of birth) was recorded as Canadian. The nationalities of non-Canadians were determined by their country or birth or by "the country to which [they] profess to owe allegiance."
Individuals indicated their religion, according to the church or denomination with which they identified. In families where parents had different religions, children were usually associated with the religion of their mother. The Manual reminded enumerators that there "is no State Church in Canada" and so "if a person is not a member of... any one church or denomination he must not be classified with one or another." "If a person be an agnostic, or a non-believer, or a pagan, or a reincarnationist, or whatever his relationship to religion may be, he should be so classed." On Vancouver Island, enumerators were not consistent in recording the religions of Chinese and Japanese people. In Victoria, most Chinese were entered as Confucians; but Chinese people in Alberni, Comox, and Nanaimo were usually returned as Buddhists.
On Schedule 1, this category was called Profession or Trade. A person's occupation was indicated here. According to the Manual, the "chief or principal calling is the only one to be recorded; that is to say, the one on which the condition of life chiefly rests and from which the gains, earnings or income are chiefly obtained." We have coded occupations according to the Historical International Classification of Occupations [HISCO].
However, researchers should note that some occupations presented here may not be the same as those actually recorded by enumerators. Our dataset is derived from a transcript provided by the Canadian Families Project. Students employed by the CFP to transcribe and code 1901 nominal census schedules were instructed to modify or conflate occupations to conform to a different classification system. Thus, for example, "draymen," "teamsters" and "hack drivers" were all coded by the CFP as "coachmen." Researchers wanting to verify precise occupations, as they were entered by enumerators on manuscript schedules in 1901, should consult Hugh Armstrong's transcript of the 1901 Victoria census on the CanadaGenWeb site or images of the original records on the Library and Archives Canada web site.
Own means
This category referred to persons who did "not carry on any remunerative calling" and lived on income from investments, annuities, pensions, etc. Large employers, such as factory owners, were also identified here.
Several headings are summarized and consolidated in this field - namely:
Employers were persons who paid salaries and wages to employees. Large manufacturers, small businessmen, and householders who employed domestic servants were identified here.
An employee was someone who worked for a salary or wage paid by an employer.
Own account
This category was not clearly defined and not used consistently by enumerators. It referred to persons "employed in gainful occupation, doing their own work." It was used to identify a wide range of people, from lawyers - who had their own law practices and thus were engaged in "doing their own work" - to pedlars and prostitutes.
Working at home or factory; months employed at trade; months employed at trade at home; months employed at trade at factory
Information relating to these categories was not transcribed in our viHistory dataset. Researchers should consult the PDF files on the Library and Archives Canada web site for these details.
Earnings from an individual's "Chief Occupation or Trade" are entered here. The census did not make a distinction between a salary and a wage. According to the Manual, the two terms "have a common meaning, being the amount or sum of money which one person employed by another receives for his service." Remuneration for all kinds of work - such as professional services, manufacturing, sales and manual labour - could be entered here. In most cases, the dollar amount referred to annual earnings.
Months in school
This category referred to "persons of school age, being those over five and under twenty-five years." A "school year" consisted of ten (10) months.
Can Read (English and/or French); Can Write (English and/or French)
For persons who were five (5) years of age and older.
Can Speak English; Can Speak French
For persons who were five (5) years of age and older.
Mother tongue
The Manual defined "mother tongue" as "one's native language, the language of his race, but not necessarily the language in which he thinks or which he speaks most fluently or uses chiefly in conversation." Enumerators were supposed to record a person's "mother tongue" even if the person did not normally use the "mother tongue" in conversation. If, for example, a person was able to speak Russian but was fluent in English and normally spoke in English, the enumerator would record "Russian" as the person's "mother tongue" in Column 33 of Schedule 1. In this example, the enumerator would also indicate that the person "Can Speak English" in Column 31 of the schedule.
The following headings were used to describe infirmities: deaf; deaf and dumb; blind; and unsound mind. Enumerators were supposed to indicate if the infirmity was congenital (that is, from birth) or if it occurred later in life, but enumerators on Vancouver Island rarely provided such details.
In this field, we have provided enumerators' annotations and other information to augment the record.

The 1901 Census Manual is available here.
Instructions to Officers