Navigating the 1926 Census of the Prairie Provinces

Yesterday Gail Dever announced on her wonderful blog Genealogy à la carte that the 1926 Census of the Prairie Provinces was now available on FamilySearch for browsing. Canadian genealogists have been waiting anxiously for this census to be publicly released.  Many of us were involved in indexing this project on FamilySearch, so that the census can be made searchable. That is supposed to be happening in March.

However, the document on FamilySearch is NOT searchable yet.  It is only a series of digitized microfilms, divided by province.  I was too excited to wait to find Mémère and Pépère in La Salle, Manitoba.

There is no listing for the census districts and sub-districts of the 1926 Census yet, at least not one that I could find.  These titles and numbers can change as boundaries are redrawn, but I checked the 1921 census to make note of the fact that they were enumerated in Manitoba, Provencher, District 34, Sub-district 26, Municipality of Macdonald, La Salle Village. Then I checked the 1916 census which told me they were living in Township 8, Range 2, East of the meridian. That’s important to know and you’ll see why.

Back to the FamilySearch record which, as I mentioned, is a series of digitized films. I jumped around, clicking on the camera icon, to understand how the information was presented.

1926 list

Excerpt of FamilySearch catalogue record for Canada, Prairie Provinces Census, 1926

At the start of each film there is an index card, in beautiful, clear writing, that says which districts and townships were being enumerated on the next pages.

Index card

I discovered you could toggle between a specific page and the whole film by clicking on the icon on the left that looks like a grid. In this manner I was able to scan through the film, checking each index card along the way. I did some quick browsing and found the listings for Provencher but couldn’t find La Salle.

I remembered that even though the whole census isn’t released until 92 years after the fact!!!!!!! the statistical analysis of the population is released much sooner. I found the link to a pdf of The Census of Prairie Provinces, 1926 : population and agriculture, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta published by what we now call Stats Canada. I noticed on page 9 (image 209) that the Manitoba Electoral Districts were listed in a particular order, and had both a Provencher District and a Macdonald District.

Electoral districts

Page 4, image 209 from The Census of Prairie Provinces, 1926 : population and agriculture, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta

Aha! Back to the FamilySearch digitized microfilm, I chose the 4th film from the top, assuming the census may have been filmed in the same order as the statistics tables (which appears to be true). I was looking for the District of Macdonald this time. Still nothing, and everything was West of the meridian. So I moved up to the 3rd film and continued the process.

Voila! There they are, still Township 8, Range 2 E in the Village of La Salle, only now it’s called Macdonald District 4, sub-district 1.

It was almost a whole day of work, but such fun! Think I’ll wait for the search function next month before I look for anyone else.

FYI, if anyone is looking to do the same for Saskatchewan and Alberta, you can check  The Census of Prairie Provinces, 1926 : population and agriculture, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta for the list of districts. Saskatchewan is on page 217, image 419 and Alberta is on page 519, image 723.

Happy searching!

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