News Story

What Family Stories Will You Find in the 1931 Canadian Census?

For the past 20 years, Claudia Malloch has been engaged in one of the most popular hobbies in the world, namely family history research. Malloch, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is excited to learn more about her family when she digs into Canada’s 1931 census, which will be released on June 1, 2023.

As per a Library and Archives Canada (LAC) press release: “After the legislated 92 years in the vault, the highly anticipated 1931 Census of Canada will be available to the public. Collected during the Great Depression and at a time of significant immigration, the census provides a snapshot into the lives of more than 10 million people living in Canada in 1931.”

Census Discoveries Promote Family Identity and Resilience

Malloch is a writer, vibrant researcher and FamilySearch consultant who knows what can be discovered in a census. While studying Canada’s 1881 census, she uncovered a piece of her own family history.

She knew of an ancestor by the name of Maxwell Taylor, born in 1875, one year after his parents were married. Maxwell died shortly after his first birthday but before the 1881 census was recorded. The 1881 census surprisingly indicated the couple’s first child was born in 1878, overlooking baby Maxwell’s very existence.

Malloch’s census research uncovered a pattern of loss and suffering in her paternal grandmother’s family. These stories nurtured a deeper sense of gratitude and compassion for her ancestors and a desire to understand the strong roots from which she grew.

Malloch’s research inspired her to write an article titled “Legacy of Loss” for the Alberta Genealogical Society newsletter Roots and Branches. The article provides details about Malloch’s cousin Elmira Taylor and her extraordinary life of struggle and adversity.

“I discovered Elmira Taylor from a hint on FamilySearch, finding her four marriages, with no death nor divorce record. After further research, with the aid of a cousin, I located a divorce and three husbands’ deaths. Much searching uncovered one more marriage. I have yet to find Elmira’s death record, but she and [one] husband were [recorded] in the 1950 census.”

Malloch feels inspired to preserve her family stories and ensure that the past and present remain connected. She believes these stories will help her family for generations to “draw from the strength of the Taylor family, internalizing their resiliency and ability to persevere.”

Census Provides Time-Stamped Snapshots of the Way Your Ancestors Lived

Sara Chatfield, a project manager at Library and Archives Canada, described the 1931 census as a “snapshot into Canadians’ lives in that era. … Each page tells two stories. First, it tells the story of a family: their names, ages, religion and other elements of their identity. Second, the entry gives the context of their story within Canada: their neighbours, home, occupation, employment status and community. The 1931 census delves into not only where people lived, but also how: in homes with extended families, within their immigrant communities, in rooming houses and in institutions” (“Why We Are Excited About the 1931 Census,” Library and Archives Canada blog).

For Canadians, the 1931 census opens new avenues of discovery, as this may be the first time records about parents or grandparents have been accessible to the public.

Historically, this census is also important because it spans both world wars and the Great Depression, revealing information about life in Canada during a time of struggle and uncertainty.

Do You Know Your Story?

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reminds us that “we each have a story. As we discover our story, we connect, we belong, we become. … Do you know your story?” (“We Each Have a Story,” April 2022 general conference).

On June 1, 2023, Canadians can learn more about their own stories as they browse the digitized census images by geographic district and subdistrict on the LAC website. The LAC news release further states that “following the initial release, LAC will be working with Ancestry and FamilySearch International to create an advanced searchable database for Canadians and those with Canadian heritage who wish to look for their ancestors.”

Watch this video about dicovering your family history.

Read the article in French

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