Thursday, June 11, 2009

Canada Census Indexes at FamilySearch Record Search

I posted yesterday about Canadian Census Records and the addition of every-name indexes for the 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1891 Canadian census on the FamilySearch Record Search web site.

Even though I knew that there were no images (yet) for these census records, I wanted to take a look at the content of the new indexes derived from the FamilySearch Indexing Project.

Here is the main page of the FamilySearch Record Search site, with the drop-down box for the different regions:

I chose Canada, USA and Mexico, which now has 82 databases. Scrolling down to the Canada section:

It shows 10 databases, including the 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1891 census record indexes. I wanted to find my Sovereen families in the 1851 census, so I clicked on the 1851 Census:

I put "Sovereen" in the Last name field, and clicked on "Search:"

There were 52 Exact and close matches. Each person has a name link in the first column, and the second column shows a birth year (probably based on age), birth place, and residence. The third column (labelled Spouse and Children) and fourth column (Parents) are blank.

If you put your mouse over the link on the name, you can see all of the indexed information for that person:

If you click the name link, then you can see the same information for the person:

Note that there is no way to see who is in the household for a specific person. A dwelling or family number was not indexed, apparently.

I thought that perhaps the "Narrow by Place" might be useful to group family members together. I clicked on the "Place" link and saw:

There were three choices - New Jersey (1), New York (1) and Ontario (52). These are apparently all for birthplace and residence. So it is totally useless to determine occupants of a dwelling or members of a family.

A searcher could look at each entry in a surname list (such as I created above) and note the location, the page number and line number and assemble residents of a dwelling with the same name bit by bit. That would be an onerous task with a common surname, of course. And the searcher would miss the "other" family members - parents, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, etc. with a different surname, or even a differently spelled surname.

For a searcher in the 1851/1852 Canadian census records, the best resource is still the Automated Genealogy web site - the user can search by surname, and can then click on the page number link and see the entire transcribed census page which includes all of the information in the FamilySearch Record Search index.

The other alternative for free access is to go to a library or FHC with access to

If the FamilySearch Record Search Canadian census records are not going to have links to free page images (I don't know if they will or not, but I doubt it - they will likely link to page images for the census records indexed by Ancestry - probably 1851 and 1891), then they should create a links for transcribed pages. They have all the information available to them - it's a matter of will and effort to do it. It would greatly help researchers find family units and neighbors in the Canadian census records.

It struck me that many of us are really spoiled by the search capabilities - the many search fields, the ability to use wild cards, ability to select exact or ranked searches, etc. Ancestry has set the bar very high for search capability. Unfortunately, the search capability on the FamilySearch Record Search site is fairly primitive. Perhaps they will improve the search capabilities in the future.

1 comment:

John said...

I checked a few names on the 1861 index against the actual image on Ancestry Library Edition.
In the image he is enumerated as Noble Caruthers but he was indexed as William Caruthers. His wife, Judith, is enumerated in the image as Mrs Caruthers and was indexed as *S Caruthers.
However, I was pleased to see that the 1861 census had actually been added to the Ancestry Library Edition. I had previously thought there was a time lag between updating and updating the Ancestry Library Edition.