Tuesday, 26 September 2017

StatsCan: Using historical censuses to research Canadian families

An article in the most recent, 25 September, issue of the Statistics Canada monthly blog, Connecting Stats, Stories and People includes an interview article Using historical censuses to research Canadian families with Lisa Dillon from the Université de Montréal.

Having missed her conference presentation in Ottawa last week I was particularly interested to read about her own research:

"Ms. Dillon has used the census as a primary tool in her own research, including on the living arrangements of the elderly in her 2008 book The Shady Side of Fifty: Age and Old Age in Late Victorian Canada and the United States. Using the census and drawing from diaries and letters, she researched, documented and highlighted how shifts in living arrangements, the advent of retirement, and an empty nest free of adult children changed the trajectory of old age during the late 1800s.
In collaboration with L’Institut national de la recherche scientifique, Ms. Dillon used the census to look at the residential autonomy of single persons in early twentieth century Canada, a topic of interest this year as the percentage of one-person households is at an all-time high in Canada’s 150-year history. And, in a project to link censuses from 1871 to 1881, she found some interesting conclusions on youth leaving home for the first time.
“I found this interesting pattern where young women were more likely to leave home early if they grew up in a household dominated by brothers rather than by sisters. This may have occurred because sisters had to act as the servant of the household, whereas with sisters, they could share the workload. This evidence suggests that young women were motivated to leave because of these gendered challenges.”
Comment:  It's encouraging to see Statistics Canada give some profile to the use of the census for historical studies. Too often we've heard that historical studies are not the purpose of the census and the questions asked are limited as a result.

What would the census look like if questions on the historical and genealogical wish list were incorporated? How about the collection of DNA? In Iceland at least one third of the population have given a DNA sample.


1 comment:

Glenn W said...

I too participated in this event and like you, and many others in the room, I was pleased to discover that the SC people were very interested in promoting uses of the census, uses of interest to family historians and genealogists. Next year, the 1926 prairie census will be released -- SC and LAC should be encouraged to shower this with publicity. Lisa Dillon was, by any measure, the perfect speaker for the event.